These messages have been given all over the land and some have appeared in various Christian publications. They endeavor to strike the same note the writer has tried to sound through the years, and it is hoped that at no point will the trumpet give an uncertain sound, for it is high time that every soldier of Christ prepare himself for the battle.
It is an age of itching ears. What we need is burning hearts. We need a heart-warming!
Greensboro, N. C.
But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing and I could not stay. JEREMIAH 20:9.
Did not our heart burn within us while he talked with us by the way and while he opened to us the scriptures? Luke 24:32.
THOSE OF US WHO ARE TEMPTED TO GET UNDER THE juniper because of the condition of the church might do well to ponder the spiritual state of England two hundred years ago. It was a dark hour. As someone has put it, “The Puritans had been buried and the Methodists were not yet born.” In one section only one Bible could be found and that was used to prop up a flower-pot. It was publicly advertised in front of drinking places that one could get drunk for one penny and dead drunk for two. France had gone into infidelity and England would have followed had not a young preacher on May 24, 1738, attended a meeting on Aldersgate Street and felt his own heart strangely warmed.
The course of a nation was changed because one preacher had a heart-warming. John Wesley did more to make England over than all the experts and reformers. This old world is in a sad way now, and lately it has almost been wrecked by hotheads. The only hope, as in Wesley’s day, is a spiritual revival, and that calls, not for hot heads, of which we have a plenty even in the church, but for hot hearts.
You recognize the texts. In the first, Jeremiah is ready to quit preaching. He is like that preacher who wanted to resign but who was impressed within that what he needed was not to resign but to have his commission re-signed. He tried to quit but couldn’t. He developed a bone-fire. Here was a prophet with a holy fever, a preacher running a spiritual temperature, a man of God with a burning heart.
The other text brings us to the Emmaus disciples after those exciting crucifixion days in Jerusalem. They were trudging along a country road, half-believing, half-doubting, suffering a let-down both in body and spirit, when the Lord caught up with them. They were right in their facts: “This is the third day.” But they were wrong in their conclusions, for, since it was the third day, they should have been expecting to see the risen Christ around any bend of the road. They were right in their chronology and in their theology, but they had no doxology. And even when the Lord did appear, their eyes were holden, He was a veiled Christ. But when He expounded the Scriptures they developed a holy heartburn, which led to an experience that stirred their hearts and turned them into radiant witnesses.
Their plight before their hearts were warmed is typical of thousands of orthodox Christians today. At the bottom of all our troubles lies unreality in our Christian experience. We are walking with a veiled Christ. We need a holy heartburn.
- J. Gordon once classified some obstreperous church members as “figureheads, soreheads and deadheads.” He might have added “hotheads,” of which there is always an abundance. But a man may have a hot head and a cold heart. Christmas Evans, just out of a theological controversy, was convicted of a cold heart as he rode along through the mountains one Saturday afternoon, traveling on horseback to preach next day. Great preacher that he was, he needed a heart-warming and got it after hours in prayer.
Alexander Whyte was wont to watch the radiant throngs that emerged from Mr. Moody’s great meetings in those Pentecostal days during the mission to the British Isles. Their hearts had been warmed by the ministry of the Spirit. Mr. Moody went to Scotland some years after the Disruption and found the churches cold and divided. But he did not go to Scotland as an expert; he went as an evangelist, exulting in the grace of God. A witness said, “It seemed as though someone had set to music a tune that had been haunting thousands of ears.” He warmed their hearts.
One thinks of the professor who wrote a very learned book on love. The only defect was, the professor had never been in love. When he took the manuscript to a typist to have it prepared for the publisher, the typist turned out to be a very lovely lady, and when their eyes met something happened to the professor that was not in the book. He was happier in five minutes with love in his heart than he had been in thirty years with love in his head.
Something like that needs to happen to a lot of fundamentalists. Some of our churches are frozen together when they should be melted together. We have plenty of orthodoxy, plenty of teaching, plenty of activity; there is an abundance of good things, and in the midst” of it all we are like a cat drowning in cream. There is plenty of discussion of revivals, causes of revival, hindrances to revival, ways and means of revival: the only thing lacking is revival. We agree that it is the work of the Spirit, but here again we spend our time arguing over the expressions and missing the experience. Baptism, filling, enduement, victorious life, perfect love, full surrender—we are like a crowd of beggars discussing the merits of different kinds of pocketbooks and all of them “broke”!
We are afraid of extremism, until we are guilty of the worst extremism of all, the extremism of impotence. Some of us are so afraid that we shall “get out on a limb” that we never get up the tree! Whatever you choose to call it, we need a heart-warming, a heavenly bone-fire, a holy heartburn. Our heads and hands have outrun our hearts. We have forgotten that the way forward is not head first but heart first. We have been wagging our heads and working our hands instead of warming our hearts.
To be “fervent in spirit” is to be “boiling in spirit,” and to boil we must be near the Fire. How shall we obtain the burning heart? Jeremiah said it was God’s Word that did it and it was Jesus expounding the Scriptures that did it and it was while listening to Luther’s exposition of Romans that Wesley’s heart was warmed. There is, indeed, the strange fire that Nadab and Abihu offered instead of supernatural fire from above. There is the false fire of Isaiah 50:11: ‘‘Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow.” There is the Divine Fire which is the gift of God, and this fire Paul urged Timothy to stir up within him. Every Christian has the Holy Spirit, but the fire often dies down, and he must needs wait on God through the Word and prayer and rekindle the flame until the love of God is shed afresh in his heart, for, like Ephesus of old, we leave our first love, and because iniquity abounds our love grows cold. It takes time to do that, not because God is reluctant but because we are rebellious. It takes effort, for we must apply the means of grace. But if instead of trying to work up carnal enthusiasm and whip up our poor jaded nerves with religious excitement, we took time out to really get ourselves a burning heart we would accomplish more in a day than we get done in a year without it.
Much of our Christianity today is like the feast at Cana when it ran out of wine. We have a feast of good things: there is plenty of teaching and preaching; churches and conferences spread tables loaded with superabundance. But we have no wine. The exhilaration of the Spirit is lacking. The spiritual wine that makes glad the heart of man is gone. We need a heartwarming!
John the Baptist was not to drink wine, but he was to be filled with the Spirit. On the day of Pentecost the church was accused of being drunk on new wine, when it was really Spirit-filled. We are not to be drunk with wine but filled with the Spirit. There is a parallel between the two. Campbell Morgan asks: “Has anyone ever charged you with being drunk with your Christianity? O God, how seldom men have thought us drunk!”
Art, literature, statesmanship, scientific discoveries are the work of drunk men. We see the principle perverted in the drunkard and the dope fiend or in a Hitler. We see the constructive side in a Beethoven, an Edison, a Lincoln. Even as children we are “drunk on the wine of youth.” A little later we get drunk on love. What man does not remember some summer night when he was so in love that he loved the moon and stars and everybody except that rival who was running him a close race for the heart of his beloved? Why do we Christians not so love Jesus until we love everybody except the arch enemy of our souls?
Now, just as the natural man has his stimulants, good and bad, so has the Christian. We have meat to eat and also wine to drink that the world knows not of. Our wine is the Spirit, and yet most of us are not drunk Christians. We need our hearts warmed. When George Fox was going through his spiritual crisis, he was advised to drink beer. His advisers sensed a need but could not supply the remedy. Later he got drunk on the wine of heaven and warmed up many another soul thereafter.
Our world is drunk. Some Christians are drunk on false wine, having fired themselves with the energy of the flesh. It will take the true wine of the Spirit to move this world. God has provided a heart-warmer for His people: “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” And, unlike the wines of earth, there is no hangover: “The blessing of the Lord it maketh rich and he addeth no sorrow with it.” There is no dark-brown, morning-after taste to the joy of the Lord!
We have run out of wine. But there was one at Cana who could meet the emergency. “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” He can meet our need. If we take Him at His word and fill the waterpots with water, He will work His miracle, and those to whom we minister will say that the last wine is better than the first!
We shall never warm our hearts until we gather around the Lord. Only a Person, Christ Himself, unites us. There are conservative Christians who wouldn’t be caught on the same platform. All our plans for getting them together move so slowly because they won’t jell! The only place where we can get together is where we are already together, in Him.
We need a holy heartburn. Our eyes are holden. We need a fresh experience of the reality of Jesus Christ.
Lord Jesus, make Thyself to me
A living, bright Reality;
More pleasant to faith’s vision keen
Than any outward object seen,
More dear, more intimately nigh,
Than e’en the sweetest earthly tie.
We need to forget which group we belong to, which movement we are sponsoring, which button we are wearing, which Paul or Apollos or Cephas we are lined up with, long enough to ask, “Is Jesus real to me?” Is He real to you? Is your heart warm? He told us the secret: “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that, loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). How was He made real to these Emmaus disciples? When He overtook them, they had hardened hearts; then they had burning hearts, and when they recognized Him they had believing hearts. Well, they invited Him in as their guest, and He became their host. He was always doing that. At Cana He was first the guest, and, when the wine gave out, He became the host. Again He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him”—“I’ll be his guest—and he with me—He’ll be my guest.” The Emmaus disciples took Him in and then the guest became host and made Himself known and sent them out to witness to others.
Has He taken over in your heart? Perhaps He resides there, but does He preside? Or maybe you have never opened the door. Prebendary Webb-Peploe used to say, “Sometimes I buy a present for my wife. I am afraid that my selections are often very poor, but she always accepts them graciously, because she knows that before I ever gave her these presents I gave her my heart.” Now, all the roses and jewels there are can never make a wife happy if she knows her husband has not first given her his heart. Nor can all our gifts and religious observances please our Lord until first we give Him ourselves.
Let Him take over, and He will give you a heavenly bone-fire and holy heartburn, and will rekindle your heart with fire from above.
May Thy rich grace impart
Strength to my fainting heart,
My zeal inspire;
As Thou hast died for me,
O may my love to Thee
Pure, warm and changeless be,
A living fire!
From “My Faith Looks Up To Thee,”
by Ray Palmer.