Let The Fire Fall!

1Kings 18:17-39:
17 "And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?
18 And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken
the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.
19 Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal
four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table.

20 So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.
21 And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions?
if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.
22 Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD;
but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
23 Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves,
and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock,
and lay it on wood, and put no fire under:
24 And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD:
and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.

25 And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first;
for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under.
26 And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal
from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered.
And they leaped upon the altar which was made.
27 And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god;
either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.
28 And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets,
till the blood gushed out upon them.
29 And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering
of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.

30 And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him.
And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down.
31 And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob,
unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name:
32 And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar,
as great as would contain two measures of seed.
33 And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said,
Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood.
34 And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time.
And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time.
35 And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.
36 And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near,
and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel,
and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.
37 Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God,
and that thou hast turned their heart back again.
38 Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones,
and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God;
the LORD, he is the God
."
It had been an exhausting day.
The hot sun beat down on the parched earth.
The crowd had sat under the cloudless sky for what seemed like an eternity.
They were silent spectators in the great contest between Baal and Jehovah.

Jehovah's side was hopelessly outnumbered.
The odds were 850 to 1 in favor of Baal.

They watched and waited and waited and wondered, as the prophets of Baal tried one tactic
after another to persuade the god of lightning and fire to prove himself and send fire from heaven.
They pleaded.
They appealed.

Still unsuccessful, they began to cry out more earnestly.
They began to cajole.
They demanded that Baal hear them, and send fire.
There was still no answer.
There was still no fire!

Undaunted, they leap upon the altar, and cut themselves until the blood flowed.
These desperate and vain attempts to prove their sincerity to Baal produced nothing.
There was no sign of fire from heaven -- not even a spark!
Weary with their exercise in futility, their desire turned to disappointment and defeat.

At this point in this familiar account, we cannot help but notice some striking similarities
to the church in our day.
We are not lacking in activities.
Our church calendars are bulging with services, fellowships, retreats, programs, committee meetings, etc.
We are making lots of noise.
We are busy, earnest, and I believe, sincere.
But still, there is a deafening silence in the heavens.

There is no fire!

It is not, that we are not trying.
We are!
But, apparently, all of our programs, promotions, meetings, buses, budgets, baptisms, committees,
and conventions have failed to produce the one thing we most desperately need -- fire from heaven.

While the spiritual leaders are busily trying to produce sparks,
the average church member sits back with the rest of the world -- waiting, watching, and wondering.
Oh yes, theologically, they know that Jehovah is the only true God of fire.
Should we blame them for asking within themselves questions they would never dare to verbalize?
Is God really as powerful as the pastor claims Him to be?

After all, most members of our churches have never seen anything truly supernatural or unexplainable.
Most of the "spiritual" results they have seen can be accounted for in purely human turns.

Now back to Mt. Carmel.

Into the arena steps a solitary figure.
For several years he has been a fugitive from the king, whose wrath he had incurred three years earlier.

Now, here is Elijah calling upon the people to watch and listen.
By now the people are skeptical.
But Elijah was a real contrast to the other religious leaders of his day.
He has always been a minority voice.
His message cuts across the grain of what is traditional and palatable.

His challenge is to "get off the fence," and take a public stand for either Baal or Jehovah.
This kind of challenge makes the average person uncomfortable.

Elijah directs their attention to the altar of Jehovah.
It had been unused for many years, and it is in a state of disrepair.
One by one, Elijah selects 12 large stones and constructs an altar.
He prepares the sacrifice and places it on the altar.
There is nothing out of the ordinary, yet.
But then, he did something unbelievable.

He turns to the crowd and directs some of the men
to fill four barrels full of water, and pour them on the sacrifice.
Has he lost his mind?
Everyone knows that wet wood will not burn.
They pour 4 barrels of water on the altar.
Then, he asked for 4 more barrels.

This is crazy?
Then 4 more barrels.
Well, this is not going to burn.
Water is standing in the trench around the altar.
Every thing is soaked!
Might as well go home -- the show is over!
Then Elijah prays a short, simple prayer,... and the fire fell from heaven!
This was real fire from heaven.
It licked up the water, and utterly consumed the sacrifice, the wood, the stones,
and even the dust on the ground.

This was fire from heaven -- fire from God!

What is the fire of God?

There is no greater need in the church today than for the fire of God to fall.
But what do we mean by the fire of God?
What does the fire do?

When the fire falls, we see God for who He really is.
Both the Old and the New Testaments reveal God to be a God of fire.
When the fire falls, God comes.
When God comes, people are more comfortable with their face on the floor, than sitting in a pew.

John, the beloved apostle, fell back, terrorized at the vision of God.
Even the seraphim in Isaiah's vision had to cover their faces from the overwhelming view
of God's holiness and glory.
When the fire falls, it consumes everything that is unholy, earthly, and temporal.
The fire of God purifies, purges, melts and devours, for "our God is a consuming fire."
(Hebrews 12:29)
God is like a refiner's fire. (Malachi 3: 2)
This fire brings impurities to the surface.
It exposes and consumes them.

When the fire falls, sin is judged.

Sin is dealt with thoroughly and without compromise.
All sins are dealt with -- not just the obvious sins of the flesh, but the subtle sins
of the spirit are also judged.
Masks of respectability are pulled off, pretense is stripped away,
and the souls of men are laid bare before the gaze of an all-seeing, all-knowing God.

When the fire comes, there is deep conviction and grief over sin.

The intense searchlight of God's holiness makes things once thought acceptable,
to suddenly become abhorrent.
A casual attitude toward sin is replaced by brokenness and genuine repentance.

When the fire falls, the efforts and works of believers are tested.

Much of what appeared to be spiritual activity is exposed to be nothing more than works of the flesh,
and is consumed as wood, hay, and stubble.

When the fire falls, our traditional methods and programs are all yielded to His leadership,
and the Holy Spirit starts presiding in reality over the programs and operation of His church.
When the fire falls, there is power, there is life, there is purity, there is spontaneity,
and there is reality.

Where is the fire of God today?
Why don't we have the fire?

In many cases, we don't have the fire of God because we don't think we need it.
We are content to serve without it.
We are content to teach without it.
We are content to sing without it.
We are content to live without it.

The Israelites didn't think they needed fire.
But once the fire came, the rain came!

For the most part, our nation, churches, homes, and lives today are devoid of the glory and power of God.
When asked to state our needs, we speak of needing bigger buildings, more money,
more programs, more volunteers, more leaders, more equipment, etc.

Why can we not see that our real need is for God Himself?
We have ignored God.
This is an awful, horrible sin.
We have sinned against God, and He has withdrawn His manifest presence from us.

Our eyes have grown accustomed to the darkness.
We have gotten used to functioning in our own efforts.
Hardly anyone ever questions the authenticity of our results.

Someone has said that if the Holy Spirit were taken out of the average church,
95 percent of the programs would just keep right on going.

We have become blind to our true spiritual condition and needs.
Like the Laodicean church, we think
we are "rich, increased with goods, and have need of nothing."
As long as we think we are doing all right, we will never be motivated to cry out to God
to send fire from heaven.

Another reason we don't have the fire is that we really don't want it.

Oh, we say we do.
But what too many of us really want is the kind of "fire" that will draw attention
to our church, pack our pews, increase our offerings, and solve all our problems.
We don't have the fire of God because we don't believe it can happen today.

In our concern to avoid the excesses and abuses of certain movements,
we have denied all together the possibility of a supernatural outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
We don't pray for miracles because we don't really believe that God still does miracles.

I have seen churches come to the conclusion of revival services, and be very disappointed
at the lack of visible results.
The question is: "Well, what did you expect?"
Usually, we don't expect very much, and that is usually what we get.

This poem expresses that, and raises our expectation.

"Filled with a strange new hope, they came,
The blind, the leper, the sick, the lame.
Frail of body and spent of soul
As many as touched Him were made whole.

On every tongue was the Healer's name
Throughout the land they spread His fame.
But doubt held tightly to its wooden crutch
Saying, ' We must not expect too much.'

Down through the ages the promise came,
Healing for sorrow, sin, and shame.
Help for the helpless, hope for the blind,
Healing of body, soul, and mind.
The Lord we worship is still the same,
With blessings for all who will to claim.

But how often we miss love's healing touch
By saying, ' We must not expect too much.'
The good news is that we cannot expect too much.
Whatever may be our boldest dream, it is nothing in comparison to what the Father expects.

"Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much."

Finally, we don't have the fire of God because we are not willing to pay the price to get it.
Revival involves a process -- a process that requires plowing up the hardened,
uncultivated ground of our hearts, before there can be planting of the seed, and ultimately, a harvest.
The plowing is painful.

We are too busy to listen to God.
God meets with those who wait for Him. (Isaiah 64: 4)
We want God to send the fire on our timetable, and He'd better get through by noon.

God simply will not fit into our plans, our schedules, or our timetables.
He is God!

If God is going to send the fire, we must be willing to discard our man-made traditions,
methods, structures, and programs to make room for Him.
Those things are not wrong, in and of themselves, but for too many of us,
they have become gods unto themselves.

Anything that has become more essential to us than His presence is part of the price He will require.
There will be no fire until the sacrifice has been offered.
I don't know what sacrifice God may require of you... of us...
Ultimately, it is ourselves that God wants laid on the altar.

Do you want the fire of God to fall?
How badly do you want it?
What price are you willing to pay to get it?

Have you come to the place that you do not want to go on without the fire of God?

If so, join me in crying out to the God of Elijah, the God of fire:

"God of Elijah, hear the cry!
Send the fire!
Oh, make us fit to live or die!
Send the fire!

To burn up every trace of sin,
To bring the light and glory in,
The Revolution now begin,
Send the fire!

To make our weak hearts strong and brave,
Send the fire!
To live a dying world to save;
Send the fire!

Oh, see us on the altar lay
Our lives, our all, this very day;
To crown the offering now, we pray
Send the fire!"

"Revive us again;
Fill each heart with Thy love,
May each soul be rekindled
With fire from above."

"Oh, please dear God, let the fire fall!
Let the fire fall here!
Let the fire fall on me
!"

Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White