************ Sermon on 1 Thessalonians 5:19 ************


By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman


This sermon was preached on April 24, 2016


1 Thessalonians 5:12-24
1 Thessalonians 5:19
"Do Not Put Out the Spirit's Fire"

Introduction
"The Spirit do not extinguish." That is a literal translation of the Greek of our text. The Bible is talking about the Spirit of God.

An older translation tells us, "Quench not the Spirit" (KJV). Quench is one of those old fashioned words we don't use today. I much prefer the language of our pew Bible, "Do not put out the Spirit's fire." Yes, the original Greek does not use the word "fire." But the Greek word for "put out" almost always refers to putting out a literal fire. Same with the word "extinguish." What is it that we extinguish? We extinguish fires -- whether it is the flame of a candle, forest fire, or camp fire. I don't have a fire quencher in my home. I have a fire extinguisher. Actually, I have two or three of them.

"The Spirit do not extinguish." "Do not put out the Spirit's fire."

What is meant by the Spirit's fire? And, how do we extinguish it or put it out?

I The Spirit's Fire
A Fire represents God's presence with His people. For instance, one of the first times we come across the word "fire" is in the story of Moses and the burning bush. There the angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in flames of fire from within a bush (Ex 3:2). Do you remember how God led the children of Israel through the wilderness? By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light (Ex 13:21). At the dedication of the tabernacle, fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar (Lev 9:24). When Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them (Leb 10:1-2). After that, God was known as a consuming fire (Deut 4:24; Heb 12:29). I also think of Elijah's challenge to the prophets and priests of Baal? The god who answers by fire--he is God (1 Kings 18:24, 38, 39).

Now, do you remember what was seen on the Day of Pentecost? The believers saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them (Acts 2:3). Telling us what? Telling us that the Spirit represents God's presence with His people.

B We all know that fire can be a good thing and fire can be a bad thing.
We took visitors last weekend to see the Sequoias. Right away they noticed the burn marks on many of the big trees. I informed them that Sequoias need fire to pop open the seed cones so new trees can grow. The fire also cleans the forest floor of leaves, branches, debris, harmful insects, and provides a rich and cleared spot for the new seedlings to grow. As for the Sequoias, the trees are protected because the fibrous bark is up to a yard thick and contains a fire retardant. But sometimes the fire can burn so hot that the big trees are damaged and even killed.

Fire can be a good thing and fire can be a bad thing. That is true when it comes to the Spirit as fire. The Spirit as fire represents God's protection and leading of His people as we see with the pillar of fire in the wilderness. But the Spirit as fire also represents God's cleansing and judgment of His people as we see with Nadab and Abihu.

C The four commands in verses 19-21 go together and help us understand how the Spirit as fire works today:
-Do not put out the Spirit's fire.
-Do not treat prophecies with contempt.
-Test everything.
-Hold on to the good.
The focus of the four commands is the Word of God. When I preach, the Spirit leads me to preach the truth as we find it in the Bible. The early church, however, did not have a completed Bible. So the Holy Spirit gave the gift of prophecy to certain members of the church and would speak a message through them.

Whatever the message and however it comes, by the Spirit's power we need to "test everything" and "hold on to the good." We need to do that because Satan constantly seeks to counterfeit a message from God and lead the church astray. It is by the Spirit's power that the truth is preached. And, it is by the Spirit's power that the truth is heard and received and believed. The Word of God works in us only by the power of the Spirit.

D Today, the Spirit as fire also works to purify the people of God. Our Bible reading ends with a prayer to "sanctify ... through and through" (1 Thess 5:23). The Spirit works within us to make us holy and pure and blameless. It is the Spirit that brings renewal.

But before renewal must come repentance. Before repentance must come confession. Before confession must come conviction. And conviction of sin, you need to realize, is the unique ministry of the Holy Spirit:
(Jn 16:8) When [the Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment ...
The Spirit must burn within us so that we are convicted of our sin. No one likes to undergo this. We much prefer to hide our sin or deny our sin.

Have you ever felt the burning of God's Spirit in your heart? I hope so because the Spirit needs to do His cleansing and purifying work in our hearts.

II Putting Out the Spirit's Fire
A "The Spirit do not extinguish." "Do not put out the Spirit's fire."

As I said to the girls and boys, you don't put out a fire by accident. A fire naturally burns unless we do something to put it out. For instance, a camp fire can go out because you let it run out of fuel by not throwing another log onto the flames. Or, you can take steps to put it out; you might douse a flame with water or you might extinguish it by covering it with dirt or fire retardant.

"The Spirit do not extinguish." "Do not put out the Spirit's fire." Like a camp fire, the Holy Spirit naturally burns within us unless we do something to put out its fire.

B "The Spirit do not extinguish." "Do not put out the Spirit's fire." So, how do you put out the Spirit's fire in your life? You can allow it to burn out. This gets us back to the four commands dealing with the Word of God that I mentioned earlier:
-Do not put out the Spirit's fire.
-Do not treat prophecies with contempt.
-Test everything.
-Hold on to the good.
When we fail to spend time with the Word, we are allowing the fire of the Spirit to run out of fuel. When we fail to attend worship, we are allowing the fire of the Spirit to run out of fuel. When we fail to do devotions, we are allowing the fire of the Spirit to run out of fuel. When we fail to attend Bible Study or Catechism or Youth Group or Sunday School, we are allowing the fire of the Spirit to run out of fuel. The Word of God is the fuel used by the Spirit.

C "The Spirit do not extinguish." "Do not put out the Spirit's fire." We put out the Spirit's fire when we live a life of disobedience. We put out the Spirit's fire when we harbor sin. We put out the Spirit's fire when we pay back wrong for wrong instead of trying to be kind to each other (1 Thess 5:15). We put out the Spirit's fire when we fight and resist the sanctification mentioned in verse 23.

D "The Spirit do not extinguish." "Do not put out the Spirit's fire." We put out the Spirit's fire when we allow ourselves to backslide. When we lose our enthusiasm for God and the things of God. When our joy is placed in things rather than in God. When sports and recreation and work become more important than God. When we seek treasure on earth rather than in heaven. When we criticize and complain instead of "encourage the timid, help the weak, and be patient with everyone" (1 Thess 5:14). When bitterness rather than joy and thanks becomes predominant in our life (1 Thess 5:16,18). My dear friends, the fire of the Spirit must not be allowed to go out on the altar of your heart. You and I must maintain the devotion to and love for Christ that motivates and energizes our lives. We need to be filled with excitement and enthusiasm for Christ, His Church, and His work.

III The Result of Putting Out the Spirit's Fire
A "The Spirit do not extinguish." "Do not put out the Spirit's fire."

What happens when we don't put out the Spirit's fire? One chapter earlier, the heading is "Living to Please God." That's what happens when we have the Spirit's fire. We live in order to please the God Who gives us His Holy Spirit (1 Thess 4:8). Or, to put it another way, we take pleasure in God and God -- because of Christ -- takes pleasure in us. God is pleased, my brothers and sisters, when we strive to live for Him. God takes pleasure, my brothers and sisters, out of our attempts at holiness and righteousness. God rejoices when we are wholeheartedly willing and ready to live for Him.

What happens when we don't put out the Spirit's fire? When we don't put out the Spirit's fire we please not only God but also outsiders who see our holiness and our love for one another (1 Thess 4:3,12).

What happens when we don't put out the Spirit's fire? We cannot help but tell people about Jesus and invite them to church.

B But, now, let's ask what happens when we do put out the Spirit's fire? What happens when we don't spend time with the Word? What happens when we allow unconfessed and unrepentant sin in our lives? What happens when we backslide?

I want to start with examples from the New Testament.

The church in Ephesus put out the Spirit's fire. The result? John says, "You have forsaken your first love" (Rev 2:4).

The church in Pergamum put out the Spirit's fire. The result? They tolerated false teachers and their heresies (Rev 2:14-16).

The church in Thyatira put out the Spirit's fire. The result? Sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols (Rev 2:20).

The church in Sardis put out the Spirit's fire. The result? They are spiritually dead (Rev 3:2).

The church in Laodicea put out the Spirit's fire. The result? Spiritually, they are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked (Rev 3:17).

C What happens when we put out the Spirit's fire? I also think of the children of Israel in the wilderness. God had brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand and outstretched arm. He led them on dry ground across the Red Sea. He gave them water from a rock. He sent them manna and quail. He defeated the Amalekites. You would think the fire would be burning, and would be burning brightly. You would think the people would be willing to go anywhere and would do anything for the Lord.

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses recalls what happened when the children of Israel came to the border of the Promised Land. Twelve men were chosen, one from each tribe, to spy out the land and bring back a report about the route to take and the towns they will come to. When the spies came back they reported, "It is a good land that the Lord our God is giving us" (Deut 1:25). All the spies were unanimous about this report.

What should have happened after this report? The people should have risen up, marched in, and taken possession of the land. But that is not what happened because ten of the spies also reported that "the people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there" (Deut 1:28). So what did the people do? Moses tells us:
(Deut 1:26-27) But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God. (27) You grumbled in your tents and said, "The LORD hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us.

You all know the rest of the story. The people rebelled. The people put out the Spirit's fire. They people chose not to obey and trust God. As a result of their disobedience, they were forced to wander around the desert for forty years until all of that faithless generation had died. They chose the desert over obedience to God. They chose the scorching heat and burning sand and buzzing flies and thirst and scorpions over trust in the Lord. Their trail took them back and forth but it was easy to spot because they left graves wherever they went -- the graves of an entire generation.

Forty years of this. Think of all the lost time. Think of all the lost opportunities. Think of all the lost life. Think of all the unnecessary troubles and hardships they underwent.

They look the long way and the long road. All because they put out the Spirit's fire.

Conclusion
Are you on fire for the Lord? That's what the Spirit's fire comes down to. What the church needs is men and women and girls and boys who are on fire for Christ. What the church needs is people who are filled with the Spirit's fire.

Driving on the freeway this past week I kept seeing bumper stickers saying "Burn baby burn." I wondered if I could use that bumper sticker for this sermon. So I did a Google search when I got back to my office and discovered the bumper sticker signifies supporters of Bernie Sanders. But I also found a Wikipedia article on the Yosemite Firefall. This was a summer time event that began in 1872 and continued for almost a century. Burning hot embers were pushed from the top of Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park to the valley 3,000 feet below. From a distance it appeared as a glowing waterfall. History has it that David Curry, founder of Curry Village, would stand at the base of the fall, and yell "Let the fire fall," each night as a signal to start pushing the embers over.

"Let the fire fall." That's a good emblem and a good motto for Christians today. "Let the fire fall." That's what God's Spirit does. It falls on our hearts and burns within us. The only question is, do we put out the Spirit's fire or do we let the fire burn?
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