One of the earliest hits for Madonna way back in the 1980s was Burning Up. The lyric and clip ooze a passion for a partner that is so totally irresistible, in only a way that Madonna (and few other artists) can achieve. The song talks about the sort of rejection of unrequited love—that burning desire that only simply stirred and fanned the flame of passion and infatuation in our hearts.
Some will find it strange to connect this imagery of having an insatiable burning desire with God i.e. to burn with passion for him and his spiritual Presence.
The subject of “burning” in the Bible is, after all, normally associated with either sacrifice or damnation. But, we’re literally asked to fan our spiritual flames into a frenzy consuming all temptations to evil in our paths. Consumed by holiness—I like it!
Let’s hear Paul invoke this in Timothy:
“This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
–2 Timothy 1:6-7 (NLT).
Now, some well-intentioned and particularly charismatic believers of Christ might see this process dependent on some sort of Holy Spirit ‘capture’; the anointing of the Holy Spirit. And to a degree that’s truth; but only to a degree. God has already given these gifts to all people through Jesus’ work on the cross. All we need to do is receive.
We see that God here wants everyone to burn for him; not simply those who’ve ‘been anointed.’ “Everyone”; did you really mean that? Yes, everyone. It is our sole, overriding purpose in life—everything else comes from this, and is secondary.
We have here in these two verses of Paul’s opening stanza to Timothy, I think, a strident cause and effect statement. The effect is dependent on the cause. It’s a conditional statement.
We cannot reap the power of God’s all-available power, love and self-discipline if we haven’t first been whipped into a frenzy for God; for an uncompromised truth. This tripartite power is wonderfully congruent—the first time we feel it is the first time we feel truly alive!
Yet, flip this thought on its belly and what do we see? Ambivalence towards God means, via cause and effect, we welcome a life of manifest fear revealed in either timidity or aggression, and most particularly, both. (And, yes, aggression always emanates from fear.)
God restores the balance that every human being was hardwired with the potential for.
The divine (spiritual) seesaw is evened out as we fervently and unashamedly seek him.
Do we see now how the purposes of God in our lives—relating to us burning solely for him—are there only for our own good? God doesn’t need our praise and accolades; we’re the ones who need to do it. We’re dependent on him all our lives in this way.
Is worship for God? Does he require it from us? A big fat “NO” to both those questions—it is we who need to do this; it is our way to block out any other thing of falsity, distraction and inherent evil to the glory of God alone!
Got a flame?
How much do you want him?
© S. J. Wickham, 2009.