Each One’s Work Will Be Tried by Fire

church fireEach one’s work will become apparent, for the day will make it evident, for it is being revealed by fire. And the fire, it will be testing each one’s work — what kind it is. (1 Cor. 3:13, CLV)

Have you ever noticed how many great and highly visible ministries that men have built up and that seemed to have been blessed by the Lord have shriveled up and come to naught? Or have you noticed that since you committed your life to Christ things have got more difficult, not easier? I am sure that all too many Christians blame the devil for this, but is that the case?

Jesus said, “Every plant that my Father has not planted shall be rooted up.” He also told His disciples that “the flesh profits nothing.” How much of what we do as Christians is a product of our own human industry and wills? We come into our Christian walk but still have all our worldly goals, pursuits and giftings with us. In effect, we put Jesus in our bag of supplies that we think will get us where we want to go and help us get there. Then we wonder why He kicks a hole in the bottom of our bag and our treasures start falling out!

Some of us have a natural ability to draw a crowd with our speaking or writing skills and then we set out to build an organization and a marketing scheme around them–all “for the glory of God,” of course. That’s the American way to become prosperous, is it not? And everyone knows that Jesus is an American. At least it seems that way because the world has embraced an Americanized version of the gospel that preaches, “Jesus suffered so that we don’t have to. We are the King’s kids and we should live like princes and enjoy the fat of the land. The heathen have stored up their wealth for us to inherit! ” It all sounds so smooth and so good, doesn’t it? We can have the best of both worlds. This is the “gospel” that draws the self-serving crowds and fills mega-churches, but is it the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Jesus preached a gospel that crucifies the carnal desires of the flesh if we dare to yield to Him and follow His Spirit. Jesus said, “If any man would be my disciple let him take up his cross (not his BMW) and follow me.” Jesus preached a gospel that was meant to divide. Think about it. One man that heard Him said, “Let me first go bury my father.” To this one He said, “Let the dead bury the dead; you follow me.” To another who was rich He said, “Give all that you have to the poor (not the prosperity preacher) that you might have riches in heaven, then come and follow me.” That man turned away because the “deceitfulness of riches” had him. You cannot serve both God and Mammon.

John the Baptist gave us a hint of the nature of the gospel of the Kingdom of God as he prophesied about the coming Christ.

Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:10-12, rsv)

I grew up in a wheat farming area, the famed Palouse Country of the northwestern United States. When wheat comes to a head and is ready to be gathered into the granaries, the farmers use combines to first cut down the stalks of wheat and then to separate the wheat kernels from the stalks and the chaff (the husks around the grain). The chaff is discarded with the stalks and stubble and the wheat is saved. They only want the wheat kernels themselves. The rest goes out the back of the machine and often the farmers burn the stubble and chaff in their fields when the harvest is over. Fire is good for the grains and natural grasses. It shocks the grasses and brings new life, but it kills the weeds and their seeds. It is part of God’s natural design.

For years I have pondered this baptism of fire that John prophesied, and felt that it is not the same as the baptism of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. I was reading a writing by T. Austin-Sparks that confirmed my suspicions. The Spirit comes into a person and He both anoints for service and He purifies the servant. Jesus said,

“I came to cast fire upon the earth; and what do I desire, if it is already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened [constrained] till it be accomplished!” (Luke 12:49-50).

It was the fire of unerring and avoidable discrimination. Fire always finds things out. As it creeps and encroaches and overtakes, it makes one discrimination between things that it can devour and things over which it has no power. It puts them into those categories; the finding out, the classifying, the deciding. Look at the context, Luke 12:51 – “Think ye that I am come to give peace in the earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division.” He goes on – “There shall be from henceforth five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. They shall be divided, father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against her mother; mother in law against her daughter in law, and daughter in law against her mother in law…” – discriminating, setting things in the category to which they belong.

One category is that which can go on and abide and endure because it is of God. The other will be licked up by the fire, and simply pass out of existence. “The fire shall try every man’s work“, said Paul (1 Cor. 3:13). The fire of unavoidable and unerring discrimination [It classifies our works into wood, hay and stubble or gold, silver and precious stones]. That has ever been the effect of a work of the Holy Spirit; to put us into the place to which we belong. It is a kind of dividing thing all the time. Are you for or are you against? Are you with or are you not with the Lord? Are you going on with the Lord, or are you not going on with the Lord? The Holy Spirit is pursuing that course all the time to find us out and to just classify us like this, so that when the Holy Spirit has worked we are in definite categories. Division has come, and it is unavoidable.

It is no use, dear friends, our trying to avoid this. You see, here is a terrible statement. “I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34), dividing even families and households. You cannot avoid it; it is no use trying to. If you are going on with the Lord, this sort of thing is going to happen, and in the world it is going to become perfectly clear and pronounced where we are. It is of no use just trying to keep and avoid, you have got to yield to the work of the Spirit, and it is costly in your own home with the clear division on the ground of whether the Lord is having His way or not – clear division in the family anywhere, everywhere – you just cannot avoid it…*

We are first filled with the Spirit of God when we believe in Christ, but then the real work of God in our lives begins, the work of destroying our souls’ power over our freshly enlivened spirits (see Hebrews 4:12). Everything of our old soul natures that the New Testament calls our “flesh” has to go. Our flesh once controlled everything we did, but now it is a threat to going on with Christ. The flesh is the chaff and the kernels of wheat are our spirits. All things must pass through the cleansing fires of God. Peter was a mixture. On the one hand he heard God tell him that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, and on the other he was used to tempt Christ to save Himself from going to the cross. To this man of mixture Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32, ESV2011). Fire and sifting are needed to get the chaff out of us.

The fire of the Holy Spirit also does something else. It makes you an enemy of this world that is dominated by Satan. Brother Sparks went on to write:

It was the fire of inevitable provocation. No sooner had the Spirit come, the fire fallen and begun to move over the earth, than there was tremendous and terrific uprising of antagonism. It is inevitable. If you and I are going to be men and women of the Spirit, we are not going to have an easy time. Hell will see to that. At once the clash arises and it is true that the more the Holy Spirit is able to have His way in us and to lead us into all the will of God, the more we find this opposition, this antagonism. And it not only comes between us and the world, it sometimes comes in the circle of the Lord’s own people. It is inevitable provocation. You wonder why, sometimes. As you read the New Testament you wonder, ‘What is the matter with these people? Why should they be so upset and so annoyed? And why should it be so spontaneous, this thing? And persistent; so unreasonable?’, but there it is. There is the fact. It is inevitable.

You see, this thing that the Lord came to do and is doing, will not allow for any neutrality. It is going to be one thing or the other. It is going to be for or against. The eyes of flame (here the fire comes in again) the eyes of flame will not allow lukewarmness or anything that is of the Laodicean character. The fire is a positive element always, and it will create positive situations. If everything is all just nice and quiet, no disturbance, no trouble and no antagonism and opposition, you have reason to question whether the Holy Spirit is doing much, because He does aim at such a positiveness, which is a very, very costly thing. It is either with the Lord, or not with the Lord, and there is nothing between. It is going to come out sooner or later and be precipitated.

Now, the Lord says that is what He came to do. This is not an accident, a chance or things having gone wrong or miscarried. This is exactly what He came to do – to scatter fire on the earth and these are the inevitable effects of the fire. They are going to work out.*

Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” So, dear saints, as the apostle put it, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to test you, as though some strange thing happened unto you” (1 Peter 4:12, KJ2000). When things are hard as you follow the Lord, they are supposed to be. He is pulling your “camel” through the eye of His needle. None of the old baggage we have held so dear can proceed on in this walk we are called to, not even the “good things” we had or the “good qualities” we possessed. If it is not out from Christ in us, it is of no use to the building up of the kingdom of God. Thank God that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him. The working of Spirit will make sure of it in those who are the sons and daughters of God.

* http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/002845.html

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17 comments on “Each One’s Work Will Be Tried by Fire

  1. Yes and amen, Michael. Both your words and TAS’ excerpts hit the nail smack on its head. In fact, I have begun a new blog post two days ago and I find some insights on here going hand in hand with my own experiences lately.

    Thank you very much for posting this great article! ⭐

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michael says:

      Thanks you, Susanne. Again it seems that the Spirit has us both tracking together on what He has been saying to us as well as doing in our lives. I am looking forward reading your new blog. God bless and keep you always, dear sister. ⭐

      Liked by 1 person

      • Michael says:

        Susanne, I loved your blog. What an important thing to see and walk in it is when we put the voice of God first in our lives and let HIM direct us about the voices of others that want to control us according to THEIR wills and not His. The un-crucified flesh in us and others is totally contrary to the will of God in us and we have to see that our yielding to these other voices makes us double minded and unstable in ALL our ways. It is here that we loose His peace and are unable to please our Father and even do what is HIS will for them! But He keeps us in perfect peace when our mind is fixed on Him and we put our trust in Him alone.

        You and the things you share are a great blessing in my life. Thank you so much! 🐻

        Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you very much for your encouraging words, Michael! 🙂

        And yep, that is one of my favorite Scriptures of which I know it says the truth: When I keep my mind fixed on Him, I can be sure peace will follow immediately. But I do know also that I need His help to stay focused on Him since without Him I cannot do anything.

        You, my brother, and your Spirit-led writings have been a continuous blessing to me and to my spiritual life as well. Thanks a bunch! 🐱

        Liked by 2 people

      • Michael says:

        Susanne, it is a great joy for me to watch God form you into the image of Christ, even now as He is showing you our need for boundaries in our lives so that we can hear and obey HIS voice over all others… even the ones we love. You have been a great encouragement to me in my own battle to do the same and keep my mind stayed on Christ for all my needs. Your honest writings from your own life have so often been used of Him to light the way I should go.
        God bless and keep you always. 🐻

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Shelley says:

    An excellent word! Thank you,

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Becky Johnson says:

    Michael, your last paragraph really struck me. Well, the whole thing did, really. But this: ” He is pulling your “camel” through the eye of His needle. None of the old baggage we have held so dear can proceed on in this walk we are called to, not even the “good things” we had or the “good qualities” we possessed. If it is not out from Christ in us, it is of no use to the building up of the kingdom of God.” I have often felt and said in recent years that I feel like I’m being pulled through a keyhole. There is obvious pain, part of me wants to hold back and stay with the familiar (and less pain). But there is also the part of me that is full of hope for what’s on the other side. What would life be like without the things that can’t follow me through that keyhole.

    I read a few days ago something from Matthew Henry that was along these lines. I cannot for the life of me find it now. But he wrote on our coming to Christ and we have desires, personalities, and humors which He must cut off. I know that has been true for me, and is still true for me. Getting to know God, or having Him reveal Himself to me, is so important here as I’ve felt inherently wrong all my life. So when I’m met with a reading like that, or a Christian who doesn’t know me quoting Scripture at me to see me “change my ways,” I have a horrible reaction to it. There are aspects of my desires, personality, and humor that simply aren’t there anymore. It’s like I woke up one day and things were different. There are others I’m not aware of yet…He has not opened my eyes to it yet. And that’s okay!! This is a journey, a process. And there are those things which I know His finger of grace & fire is on…and I’m struggling in that area. Trying to hear HIS voice and not the world or even Christendom’s. I believe it is all a matter of heart and He knows each of ours.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Good morning, Michael! When this city kid moved to Cornville some years ago, I was surprised to learn that one of the major components of a combine, is a powerful fan (wind), which blows across the shredded stalks and blows the chaff away, while the grain which is dense and heavy falls through the mesh to the auger where it is moved to the grain bin.

    What the wind doesn’t carry away, the fire will consume. My neighbor back in Cornville taught me when I was burning off the garden slash to train the leaf blower on the fire as well as the discharge chute of the lawnmower to direct more air/wind at the base of the fire. Driven by the wind, the fire made quick work of the chaff pile.

    This life in Christ has certainly seemed like being in such an inferno at times. No surprise that my favorite garden tool is the propane powered weed burner. 😉 “Noxious weed! Meet the flaming finger of God!” Certainly a little flame-weeding gives perspective on the work of God within us! 😉

    Jack

    Liked by 3 people

    • Michael says:

      Jack, I am familiar with all these implements and technics you speak of and still own them. Some of the worst noxious weeds I ever had to deal with, though, were those western Washington blackberry thickets that take over ever bit of land in which the trees have not blocked out the sun. I call them “God’s barbed wire.” We bought a house in Bellingham in about 1977 that had the back half of the lot taken over by them. After a lot of hard work, pokes and scratches from the massive thorns on the vines over a month or two, we discovered that we had fruit trees and a hedge in our back yard that the blackberry vines had climbed up and were choking out as well as abandoned garbage piles under them.

      Somehow this situation seemed to parallel what happens when our flesh is allowed to run unabated. And yes, those fruit trees needed to be pruned as well that they might once again bring forth fruit. I thank God that He is a Master Husbandman and does what we need in our lives.

      God bless you, my brother!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Michael says:

    Dear Becky, You wrote, “There are aspects of my desires, personality, and humor that simply aren’t there anymore. It’s like I woke up one day and things were different. There are others I’m not aware of yet…He has not opened my eyes to it yet. And that’s okay!! This is a journey, a process. And there are those things which I know His finger of grace & fire is on…and I’m struggling in that area. Trying to hear HIS voice and not the world or even Christendom’s. I believe it is all a matter of heart and He knows each of ours.”

    Boy, how you blessed me as I read this!!! YES! You DID wake up one day and you were all of a sudden a NEW Becky with a NEW heart, a heart that was in tune with the voice of the Spirit and not the voices of the well meaning relatives and the religious crowd. As I read about your “Job’s counselors” I was reminded of this verse that Paul spoke in Romans, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his [her] own master he [she] stands or falls. And he [she] will stand, for the Lord is able to make him [her] stand. (Rom 14:4, NIV)

    God has you, dear sister! He is your Master and HE is conforming you into the image of His Son. THAT is all that counts. “This is my beloved Son. Hear ye HIM!” Thanks for sharing your heart with us on here. You are an encouragement to me. ⭐

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Pat Orr says:

    Thank you for the blog. I pray that I will stay in the fire when He puts me there, and not seek an escape. Paul in writing to the Corinthians concerning temptation said that God would provide an escape. I pray that I can rest in the fire, and allow God to do His work.

    Love in Jesus,

    Pat Orr

    Liked by 2 people

    • Michael says:

      Pat, Submitting to the hand of God when He corrects us is not fun, but it is necessary if we are to grow up into the fullness of Christ. I think that a big part of it is a willingness to believe that ALL things are working together for our good, because He has called us to be His sons and daughters unto HIS glory.

      “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Col 3:1-4, NIV)

      Love you, too, dear sister.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Cie says:

      I was recently listening to a David Wilkerson sermon on Youtube called “David Wilkerson- Moving Your Mountain FULL SERMON” – it is a very powerful message I would recommend, you will be touched by it in a deeply profound way.

      Anyway, in summary he ended the message by stating that unless we have an unwavering intimate KNOWING of God’s unfailing love for us, we will not stay in the fire… we will not make it through anything that is yet to come.

      Today, I was thinking of 1John 4:18 [KJV]) “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” in a different light. I always read that to apply to our love for God being perfected, but today Holy Spirit turned it around for me and basically said it this way… When you know God’s perfect love for you, you have no reason to fear anything! His perfect love for you casts out all fear. And it truly does!

      However, our flesh encourages short memory and tends to make our spirit forget His perfect love for us. It will encourage us at every fiery turn to “deliver yourself” lest you be destroyed.

      This is most evident in our lives when it comes to physical trials. And how many of us are troubled with sore infirmities, the majority I am sure. Unfortunately, 99.8% professing faith will not stay in the fire, with a diagnosis that might be terminal. Most of us are very afraid of such a trial and will seek out “self-deliverance” at the earliest onset, every time.

      What am I trying to say here? I am saying that most Christians are not considering meeting God in the lions den or the fiery furnace. We do not have to wait until we face literal lions or Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace to consider it a trial of faith, but allowing ourselves to be touched in the body like Job, and still being able to say unwaveringly “I know that my redeemer lives, and I shall see His deliverance with my physical eyes” does qualify in God’s book. James mentions Job’s patience and the trial of our faith in the same verse, so we know we can learn from Job’s example for our own trials.

      Take cancer for instance, it strikes most everybody these days, and it is just as fierce as a lion more than ready to devour. (And yes, there are natural cures for that now, and we can tell ourselves that God made them for our healing – but it really is another “moral” path to self-deliverance.)

      I believe we need to ponder this more deeply. It is no longer enough to follow that which is “moral” and “right” in our and even God’s eyes. The only life that is acceptable to God is the life that is willing to endure the fires (impossibilities) and see the deliverance of God alone (without any human help or wisdom).

      We may not have realized that “self-deliverance” robs us of God’s miracle and Him of His glory every time. Our carnal mind with it’s reasoning truly is the enemy of God, it will see to it that God does not receive honour from our life. It will make certain that the honour is stolen, or at the very minimum SHARED. This cannot continue like this, for soon we run out of time to practice full God-reliance.

      The way of escape you mentioned in your comment, Pat – is Jesus Christ speaking the word of deliverance, at His determined time. And knowing in our hearts that Jesus’ perfect love will never fail… no matter what our bodies will have to endure. And it seems that “His determined time” is the moment when we stop “twitching” with the desire to undo the fetters through our own strength that might be left in us. We must die, until there is no more “twitch” left. Glory!

      I don’t know why I wrote all of this, and it seems a bit disjointed to me, but I pray the Holy Spirit will fill the gaps and make it say what He wants to convey.

      May His perfect Love fill your heart with revelation knowledge of the same.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. kenneth dawson says:

    Yes the work of His spirit will make sure of it–that’s what I say in all of my circumstances–I will put My Spirit inside of you and CAUSE you to follow my ways–thanks for the good words.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Michael says:

      Amen, Kenneth. It is good to hear from you again! Thank God for His mighty hand in our lives. Apart from Christ we can do nothing.

      “Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (Heb 8:9-12, KJ2000)

      Liked by 1 person

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