Author: Ron Graham
There are a few people who seem to think that Christianity should be followed without strong emotion, and that people who are “emotional” about their faith are somehow off-center or shallow.
Of course there is a kind of “religious hulabaloo” that marks some false religion, however there are genuine intense emotions that mark true and genuine Christianity. For three of these, the Bible uses the “burning” metaphor and this lesson is about how Christians “burn” in their hearts.
At some time or other, we have all had an attack of so-called “heart burn”. Usually it is not a serious or lasting malady. In the Bible, we read about heart burn of a different kind: a burning in what the Bible calls “the inner person” which is sometimes figuratively called “the heart” (1Pet 3:4, Ephesians 3:16).
After some disciples had walked and talked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, they said, "Did not our heart burn within us while he talked with us on the road and opened (explained) the scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32).
The preaching and expounding of the words of God, will convict the soul as it did these disciples. Though they did not recognise Jesus, they recognised the truth he spoke from God's word, and it burned in their hearts. When this kind of heart burn occurs, we know God is reaching a soul with his word, convicting, converting, stirring up that soul.
Of course this burning develops into an intense desire to share the gospel with others. The burning becomes evangelical and we have a zeal to preach to others (John 4:35).
Paul the apostle had a deep concern for all the churches of Christ. The troubles in those congregations were a daily worry and burden. He spoke of his concern in this way: "Who is made to stumble and I do not burn with indignation?" (2Corinthians 11:29).
The Corinthians would have understood what Paul meant. They had themselves been through a serious struggle with sin in the congregation. Paul describes their state of mind: "You sorrowed in a godly manner. What diligence it produced in you, what clearing, indignation, fear, vehement desire, zeal, and vindication!" (2Corinthians 7:11).
Jesus showed that same burning in his heart when he drove the money changers from the temple (a type or symbol of the church of Christ). It was written of him in scripture: "The zeal for your house will consume me" (John 2:14-17). Do we have that deep outrage when error, and sin are found in God’s churches?
Speaking of the temptation of sexual immorality and those troubled by it, Paul commands: "Let them marry, for it is better to marry than to burn" (1Corinthians 7:9).
Paul's advice is that it is better to get married rather than to burn with the struggle of resisting the temptation. There are other temptations that make some people burn in trying to resist them, and not all of them have such simple solutions. Some temptations must be endured as the chastening or discipline of God who allows us to be tempted and tried for our own good (Hebrews 12:11-13).
In using the burning metaphor for struggling with the devil (cf Ephesians6:11-12), Paul might also be underlining the end of those who don't try to resist. One day the peoples of all the earth and all its ages, will stand before the throne of Jesus to be divided into those who enter the eternal kingdom, and those who are sent away with the devil and his angels into eternal punishment.
Can you imagine the feeling in your heart if you were to hear the Lord Jesus himself say to you, "Depart from me you cursed!" (Matthew 25:41,46). Of course that is not necessary because those who are willing to put a real burning effort into resisting the devil, will be given victory by Jesus (James 4:7-8).