Adding Fuel to the Fire
Does anyone remember the song We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel? The chorus says: We didn't start the fire… It was always burning… Since the world's been turning… We didn't start the fire… No we didn't light it… But, we tried to fight it. There has been a fire burning since the beginning of time, since the world’s been turning. There is the fire of war between good and evil—the light and the darkness. Yes, of course anyone who knows me knows that I am a man who is beginning to understand the spiritual war—the struggle within. Even though I have studied it for many years, written about it and, most of all, lived it every day of my life, I still experience new things daily.
Billy is also correct when he said that we did not light the fire either. God, the spark in the darkness, ignited the fire with His willingness to love. He created Adam and Eve and wanted to share Himself with us. Then Satan created sin, he rebelled and then caused us to rebel. He brought the evil fire of rebellion and separated us from God—or so he tried. And, as Billy Joel said at the end of the chorus: We tried to fight it. And, so we try to fight in still. We attempt to fight the evil that bombards us with holiness and evil attempts to fight the holiness within us by bombarding us with temptations.
Throughout the song Billy Joel lists off a ton of things that added fuel to the fires of this world—some good, some bad. Jesus in the scriptures lists off a tone of things that will add fuel to the fires of our soul. The question is: WHO WILL WE FOLLOW?
The past few weeks I have come to an understanding of a concept—adding fuel to the fire. There has been a fire that has been burning within us from the beginning. There is the holy fire, the Holy Spirit, that dwells within every one of us no matter who we are. It is the internal struggle the internal force that is struggling to be releases the fire that is trying to consume us in holiness and grace. Every one of us faces the two paths—a path of righteousness or a path of destruction. Jesus talks about this as two roads or gates in the book of Matthew and in Luke, one being wide and broad, which is the road to destruction; the other being narrow which is the path to eternal life. The second fire that dwells in our lives is the external fire, the fire of the world. It is the fire that is trying to consume us and bring us down that broad, wide road. The fire that is easy to jump into because of it “feeling good” or bringing us fame and fortune - the freebie that doesn't require us to work toward. The one and only thing that the fires have in common is that both of them must be fed for them to flourish.
The easy road is just what it implies—easy, but it does need to be fueled. If we want holiness we need to fuel the fire with holiness, if we want wickedness we need to fuel the fire with wickedness.
The Evil Fire
One of the best examples I have is that of pornography. Everyone is a sexual being. People need intimacy, love, companionship, touch and sex. We were created that way. We get married, we have children… then it happens, the spark that brought us together is almost extinguished. And, then we turn to outside influences—such as pornography. It is said, that 65% of Christian men struggle with pornography. Now re-read the previous sentence and pay attention go what I wrote, Christian men. You begin by looking at provocative women in magazines — subtle fuel to the fire. Then you turn to naked women — fuel to the fire. Then from there, you advance to women with men — fuel to the fire. Next step, group sex and other sexual things — continues to fuel to the raging fire. Then, even though most Christians are opposed to homosexuality — we begin to look at two women together — fuel to the fire. Soon, the fire is a raging inferno that is difficult and sometimes impossible to control. The same can be said with alcohol, drugs, watching violence on tv, shows on tv that push the envelope every year with nudity or sophomoric behavior, etc. The fire needs to be fed for it to spread. The fire needs “oxygen” for it to keep burning. We, as Christians, keep the fire of sin burning in our lives and we stifle the Holy Spirit by our actions and choices.
There are seven deadly sins that we have understood universally: Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. I know that I can easily confess to being guilty of them all. All of those sins have one thing in common—they can consume you easily and without warning. I know that I have fought with gluttony all of my life. So far, I have lost nearly 200 lbs of weight, a fact that I am very proud of. But, what did it take to get me to need to gain that weight to begin with? I fueled the evil fires of depression, doubt and gluttony. I believed the demons when they said: I was not worth the skin I was in. I believed them when they said: what’s the difference, you will be alone and no one loves you anyway? Things like this, I believed—I fueled the fires with my beliefs. I fueled the fires with my conviction of sinful actions.
Months ago, a best friend of mine was so low in his life that he took his own life in his hands, judged himself and then committed suicide. He believed the lies that Satan was telling him. It is all connected—it is all fuel to the fire.
But there is One that bridges the gap. There is a fire that can burn away all the evil — a fire that cannot be fully extinguished. He is Jesus Christ. He is the bridge and ladder that connects us to the eternal source — the eternal fire of love. The gospel reading from Luke tells us that if we fuel the fires of holiness we will be blessed. We will be near God, we will be made whole. The fires of evil divide us from Christ; the fires of holiness bring us closer to him.
St. Luke says: The Lord said, And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
The holy fire, the fire that we fuel with love, mercy and forgiveness puts us on the ladder of divine ascent (read St. John Climacus' Ladder of Divine Ascent). It brings us closer to the Holy of Holies. It brings us into the presence of God. We are to expect nothing in return from man — but, the reward we get from Christ is life eternal. I strive to be Holy because I fuel the fire of my faith to believe that Jesus died for me so I could be saved. I fuel the fires of my faith with the belief that I have the mansion in heaven that is made just for me.
The Holy Fire
In the Epistle lesson from the Corinthians, Saint Paul teaches us: Brethren, you are the temple of the living God; as God said, I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.
Who we allow to inhabit our hearts is who we will follow. If we continue to push forward and strive to be the better, more holy person WE WILL thrive. If we continue to try to be holy, strive to do good, to love and to have mercy — we will be consumed by the fire that is Christ. We need to separate ourselves from the pleasures of this world. We need to run away from the evil that is trying so desperately to consume us.
God gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. He fueled the fires of holiness by giving us the love between Him and His father. He fueled the fires of holiness by sacrificing himself on the cross. He fueled the fires of holiness by leading by example.
I have written and preached against many things but mostly write and preach against Christians that behave with hypocritical and evil intent. We are the worst examples of Christ there is. We fuel the fires of evil by speaking the truth and living a lie. We need to separate ourselves from the chains of darkness that binds us to the world and bring ourselves into the fire of holiness that the Holy Spirit gives us. It is not enough to read the scriptures. It is not enough to go to church and receive the sacraments. It is not enough to go through the motions. We must live according to the path of righteousness. We must be merciful—as our Father in Heaven is merciful. We must love — as our Father in Heaven loves. We must be forgiving — as our Father in Heaven is forgiving… etc… etc… etc. We must try — I know that is impossible — to be as Christ was and is. Humility and love are hard lessons to live up to. But, if we continue to fuel the fires of holiness soon it will be so massive that it will consume us completely and all that will be left is Christ.