God warns of an unacceptable, contemptible ‘useless fire’ in the temple (Malachi 1:10). It is a fire which burns an offering unfit for a King, a sacrifice that fails to honor, glorify and worship. It is a blemished gift, leftover and superficial – without the cost of devotion.
Burning fire, incense, sacrifices to the Lord were daily devotions in the temple. These were acts of worship, repentance, and atonement. In Leviticus 6:8-13, God sets forth this mandate for the priests, thrice commanding: “The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out”. How is this relevant to us? Speed forward to Christ. His atoning sacrifice on the cross tore the curtain of the temple from top to bottom (Mark 15:38), the old covenant now replaced with the new covenant, sealed with the blood of Christ, avails His salvation and indwelling Holy Spirit to all who would receive. The Levitical priesthood abolished, true believers are now called “…a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” (I Peter 2:9) Profound to consider, believers in Christ are now the temple of the living God, noted in I Corinthians 3:16 and elsewhere throughout the New Testament. As God’s priest and temple, the mandate for us remains,
“The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out”.
The perpetual fire is the Holy Spirit – the offering is our self to God, our lives on the altar of God – “here am I Lord, live in me, live through me, I give you my life.”
Is the Holy Spirit bringing about the glory of God through our ordinary lives or is He a dwindling ember within us? Our life given to God through daily sacrifice, the sacrifice of our will and our ways, holds the promise of God’s presence as we walk through this world.
It is a sacrifice because it is difficult and unnatural.
What’s ‘natural’? Separation from God. It is natural to live for ourselves – to go where we choose, buy what we want, make our own plans. Our natural place – at the center, at the helm, to reach and be reached at all times because what we have to say and know is very important. A wide endless river, the culture of this world, flows to pump up the power of you. Therein your fire is useless. Wading in this river, ‘friendship with the world’, is hatred toward God (James 4:4).
Can we ‘unfriend’ the world?
We unfriend the world every time we kneel to pray and every time we open the Bible and our heart to God’s truths. Through His temple, through our lives, God seeks to display His presence and greatness to the world – there is no higher calling.
The world calls and grooms us with a façade of power, tapping into our deepest instinct – to be our own god. There are countless venues to converse, express, transmit, display and otherwise magnify ourselves. At the end of the day though, we are empty – consumed by a useless fire. The world cries “Have more! Do more! Improve yourself!” but the Lord admonishes, “No, put yourself on the altar – die to yourself – let Me live through you!”
God avails to us life that transcends the world’s empty clamor and façade. Sadly, many are content with powerless and useless fire – decidedly giving nothing of true value to God. When we put our self on that altar- giving our lives and each day to God – we see the truth: our temporary life, ebbing away each day, is no comparison to the eternal supernatural life He promises. Every day is a new day to come to Him, exchange our life for His life, and let the fire of the Holy Spirit shine through our heart. At the end of all days, a life lived for Jesus Christ will count for all eternity.