Here's a riddle for those of you familiar with church tradition:
How are cake recipes and church bulletins alike?
You'd likely agree that both list ingredients to be assembled and enjoyed. But did you remember the fire? Yes: They both require fire — a fire hot enough to transform the ingredients into something useful and wonderful. An unbaked cake in a cold oven remains unchanged and useless. So, too, for the ingredients of worship: Without a transforming fire they remain merely words and rituals, and we remain like an unbaked cake in a cold oven. Fire is essential. It is the very fire of God. I believe that John the Baptist spoke of that fire:
Matthew 3:11 – I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (NIV)
That is about Christ's grand mission. Christ would send His Spirit to be a fiery agent of transformation, "like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap" (Malachi 3:2 NIV). John the Baptist was not suggesting merely a bulletin ingredient in speaking of a baptism of the Spirit and fire. He was referring to the real deal: the complete immersion of people's lives into the transforming fire of God's Spirit. God's fire would be hot enough to burn away the deadly grip of sin and create new life — Christ's life ruling within through His Spirit. The apostle Paul spoke of such a transformation:
2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (NIV)
Consider again the unbaked cake. You know that it must be inserted into the oven completely. You know if it's really getting baked, by the sweet aroma filling the air. So, too, for those being transformed in the Spirit's fire: A sweet aroma emanates through their lives. It's the aroma of God's love. Yet we easily assume that we can be loving Christians without the fire. We may not realize, or even care, that little of the sweet aroma is detected by others.
With this in mind, I suggest an ingredient occasionally listed in the order of worship. It's the hymn, "Spirit of God, descend upon my heart" by George Croly. You may recognize it, and you may agree that without fire, this hymn is lifeless; nothing changes. Only the Spirit can set its words ablaze in the soul, transforming the hymn into a passionate plea — a prayer which God hears and answers — resulting in a sweet aroma.
For this devotional, I supply only a few words from the hymn, hopefully enough to help form a gripping prayer within each of us. May these words express our one holy passion:
Prayer: Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
Wean it from earth; through all its pulses move.
Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love,
One holy passion filling all my frame —
The baptism of the heaven-descended Dove,
My heart an altar, and Thy love the flame.
Listen to this devotional
Listen while you read: "Spirit Of God Descend" (Lyrics)