Intro to Fire: The Power and Purpose of the Common Believer

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“FIRE…God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, and not of the philosophers and savants. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.” ~ Blaise Pascal

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I can remember holding my wife’s hand when she died. Even now I can vividly recall the moment before and the moment after, but it was the difference between the two that struck me with a force I’d not anticipated. It was in that instant following her ascent to paradise that I realized fully for the first time the fact of death—the permanent passing of a good and beautiful thing from this flawed and fallen world. The moment before, Kristi was there. Her spirit and mind were with me. The potential for every good and miraculous thing that might be realized through them was there with me. Then, in a breath, they were gone.

From a secular perspective, this was pure tragedy. Twenty-five-year-olds aren’t supposed to be diagnosed with cancer and twenty-nine-year-olds aren’t supposed to die. From my own weak and flawed perspective, this was a time of great loss and pain—the quintessential example of “a time to mourn.” From God’s perspective, this was a demonstration of matchless love and flawless timing, all according to the perfect plan He had ordained since before the dawn of creation.

It was in the midst of these competing claims to truth that I was blessed with clarity. The God who had so lovingly sustained and encouraged me through a four-year saga of hope and sorrow had then graciously provided the precious prize of certainty. Just as I’d discovered a deeper meaning of death, so too I had been presented with the gift of peace through a divinely inspired clarity. For the first time, I came to personally realize that God’s plan was not merely perfect in a broad, general sense, but it was flawless perfection for each and every one of us on an individual level—even for me.

It was a simple concept, really, yet one of impossible weight, all of which seemed to relentlessly press on my mind. I was simultaneously numb from the profound turn that life had just taken with Kristi’s passing and awestruck at what I was beginning to see clearly for the first time. It was at once a wonderful and frightening experience; one that left me feeling both desperately small and boundlessly hopeful. As I struggled with these apparent contradictions, I developed into a confused American thirty-something-year-old Christian man. And that was a good thing.

In the following weeks and months, I prayed, studied and sought the thoughts of others who had been exposed to this convicting and invigorating clarity. This search led me to many wonderful and inspirational stories, including that of a man named Blaise Pascal.

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God-Given Fire

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Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. ~ Hebrews 12:28–29

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Blaise Pascal (June 19, 1623–August 19, 1662) was a child prodigy who became a prominent mathematician, physicist, and philosopher. By the age of nineteen, he invented what many consider to be the first computer (it was a calculating device that he crafted to help his father, who was a tax collector). What I found most intriguing about his biography was its “Night of Fire” episode.

In the late 1640s, Pascal came into contact and subsequently wrestled with Jansenism, a branch of Catholicism that emphasized the fall of man through sin and the necessity of divine grace. Pascal struggled with and contemplated this philosophy well into the 1650s; though during that time, he embraced neither its views nor the God claimed as their author.

Then, on November 23, 1654, not long after a brush with death at the Neuilly-sur-Seine Bridge, he was overwhelmed by an intense vision. Between the hours of 10:30 and 12:30 at night, Blaise Pascal experienced what has come to be known as his “Night of Fire.” He recorded the experience immediately in a note, which began: “Fire. God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and savants…” and concluded by quoting Psalm 119:16: “I will not forget thy word. Amen.” He then sewed the written note into his coat and always transferred it when he changed clothes. The presence of the note was discovered accidentally by a servant after Pascal’s death…that is, if you believe in accidents.

I no longer believe in accidents, and that’s the point. Well, one of them, anyway.

After reading Pascal’s story for the first time, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed and, I must admit, even a bit suspicious. The sheer power of it all was quite impressive, no doubt, but almost too fantastic to be true. Yet there it was, and as I pondered this dramatic episode further, my mind was propelled from one biblical account to another. The fire of which Pascal so passionately wrote inspired my recollection of John the Baptist’s announcing Jesus’ coming to “baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire” as well as images of Pentecost as recorded in the book of Acts:

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When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. ~ Acts 2:1–3

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These accounts painted the once suspicious Night of Fire in a very different light. They seemed to me to proclaim that Blaise Pascal’s experience, while utterly fantastic and awe-inspiring in so many beautiful ways, was nonetheless quite possible—indeed, in a very real sense likely—in the life of a believer. The more I studied, the more I became convinced that Spirit and fire are not merely possible, they are to be expected. They are to be assumed in the life of a Christian.

Just the thought of such a thing as this is worthy of pause, I think, and pause I did. My frazzled mind grappled at length with what was, for me, a wonderful and intimidating new truth: Christ has come to baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. And even better, He doesn’t seem to be selective with this Spirit and fire. He gives them to every believer.

This magnificent power might come over you in an intense vision on a November night, or it may make itself known as you hold the hand of a loved one who is passing from this life and into the next. It may lay its claim upon you while you struggle and cry out from the deepest place of despair or while you happily sit and read under a shade tree on the perfect, sunny day. Whenever or wherever it may have come to you, I cannot know or say, though I can be certain of two things:

Every Christian has been baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Every Christian has been blessed in this manner for a great, God-centered and God-glorifying purpose.

The first aim of Fire Breathing Christians is to identify the God-given fire in every Spirit-filled believer so that they might actively and enthusiastically fan its flame. From one Common Believer to another, my initial goal is to impress upon every Christian man, woman, boy, and girl who may read these words that they have both an amazing power and a unique, individual purpose, regardless of their place, position, title, or role in this fallen world. There is nothing in your past—no failing or flaw—that alters this truth in the least. Every Christian has been called to otherwise impossible heights and equipped to attain them.

So it is that you and I have been brought together today for a great purpose.

While we could hardly have imagined, much less properly planned such a meeting as this, we can now know that it has been both imagined and planned by the same Master who inspired matchless “certitude, feeling joy and peace” in one particular man on the night of November 23, 1654.

The God who claims and empowers great leaders and theologians is no less interested and takes no less joy in any other father, mother, daughter, or son. He seeks to lift them all to the same impossible height. As I am selfishly fond of pointing out, He takes great pleasure in using the weakest vessels to accomplish the most magnificent tasks. And His fire is not solely reserved for child prodigies or prominent philosophers.

This truth serves our purpose very well, as the change that America so desperately needs cannot be imposed from a pulpit. It will not be a product of seminary training. It will not come via decree or proclamation from the high places of man. It will come from the front lines, the grass roots, and the trenches. It is the Christian shopkeeper, landscaper, plumber, and homemaker in the pew who holds the keys to victory. They will make or break our cause.

It is the fire from above burning within these people that can heal a dying culture and restore a once-great nation. But this fire knows only one source and one goal—the one and only true God of biblical Christianity. Insofar as He, and He alone, is our center in all things, it will hold and we will accomplish otherwise impossible tasks.

To this end, every Common Believer has been called to this battle and equipped for victory.

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The Common Believer

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While what you are now reading may not be a work of exceedingly deep theology, there are going to be some critical terms and concepts that we ought to define as we go along. For example, there will be regular reference made to the term “Common Believer”. With this label, I hope to address every genuine Christian convert and adherent to biblical truth, regardless of position, place, role or title.

The commonality expressed in this title is threefold:

  1. Common in status as adopted sons and daughters of God the Father.
  2. Common in submission to God the Son as Savior and Lord.
  3. Common in submission to biblical truth as authoritative in all things.

This category covers theologians, fieldworkers, philosophers, housewives, political leaders, policemen, fishermen, fathers, daughters, sons, and students. It includes all biblically defined Christians without any compulsion to exalt one above another or rank them in any order of perceived significance. These are the people that must be equipped so that they might successfully engage the culture.

We simply cannot continue to surrender most battles, cede most battlefields, and then hope to somehow win the war raging about that culture. We cannot wait for a good and godly leader to emerge or for somebody else—anybody else—to “do something.” We cannot wait for God to miraculously do what He has called and equipped us to do. You and I—each and every Common Believer—must take it upon ourselves to engage the enemy on every front. The arts…business…politics…economics…these are the fields of battle that we are called and equipped to conquer.

Fire Breathing Christian is one Common Believer’s attempt to guide his brothers and sisters toward the Word of God so that they might be equipped to win the war we are all called to wage. In this pursuit, we will examine many spheres of life and areas of conflict between Christianity and its opposition throughout contemporary American society. We will see where we are, how we got here, and what we must do to restore a biblical foundation, one individual submission to Christ at a time.

Our preparation for such a mission must begin with an examination of the culture war as it currently stands on a variety of fronts; a survey of the battlefield, so to speak. As the self-helpers like to say, the first step to a solution is admitting that there is a problem, and when it comes to the state of American culture, we clearly have one of those. Many of them, actually, but each of these problems shares one root cause: Sin. Ours is a land in open rebellion against truth and its author. The God of Christianity is hated here. This is the reality with which we must contend. This is our great challenge.

But we must never forget that within every great challenge lies great opportunity, and never more so than with this conflict in these last days. Our God has placed us in this particular place at this specific time to meet this unique challenge. He has equipped us for combat and called us to victory. These most comforting truths must not be forgotten as we take a first hard look at the field of battle.

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Post-Christian America

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American Christendom is in a free-falling state of collapse. Having conformed to the world she was commissioned to transform, the church has accommodated, embraced, and exalted an astounding variety of heretical concepts that would have been unimaginable to believers of just a few generations past. Homosexual priests have claimed many a pulpit, the biblical definitions of family and gender roles have been largely abandoned, business and politics have come to be regarded as “separate matters”, church discipline is virtually non-existent, and Christ-less children’s education has become the accepted norm. At the root of it all is an open tolerance of the biblical illiteracy that has come to permeate the church and define the average contemporary American Christian life.

As the church has surrendered to the lethargic, lazy spirit of this age, her enemies have advanced on all fronts. From within, liberal progressives win convert after convert through their zealous evangelical efforts. From without, an American culture at war with the faith that brought it into being batters, pounds, and assaults every biblical truth from every conceivable angle in a suicidal quest to remove from sight and memory every vestige of a once-cherished God.

Is this cause for despair? Should biblically submissive American Christians abandon all hope and concede that the culture—and perhaps even the professing church itself—has been lost to the enemy?

Absolutely not!

However brazenly the church may have spurned her Lord, we may be eternally thankful that in His matchless grace He has chosen not to return the favor. Far from abandoning us, He has called us to His side in these last days so that we might be empowered to stand and fight.

He has long been about the business of preparing us for this day and preparing this day for us. Throughout the age of American decomposition, He has allowed warnings to sound through the words of many good men and women.

Two such men published books in the early 1990s, with each approaching the ongoing culture war from a unique perspective. Robert Bork’s The Tempting of AmericaThe Political Seduction of the Law, written in the aftermath of his defeated nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States, was a brilliant and sobering account of a national judicial system that had lost its way. His detailed and compelling chronicle of America’s continued flight from her founding constitutional principles served both as a frightening diagnosis and a prophetic warning. Was Judge Bork’s warning heeded?

In the era of Barack Hussein Obama and Sonia Sotomayor, the answer is as obvious as it is unsettling. The “original understanding” of the Constitution so skillfully defined and defended in The Tempting of America continues to find itself openly undermined by the forces of progressive liberalism.

In the wake of this ongoing assault on the constitutional foundation of the nation, we find ourselves moving ever closer to a state of overtly anti-Christian judicial tyranny. Making matters much worse is a modern American “conservatism” that is as openly socialistic in practice and prone to Statism as any other Christ-dismissing political force or ideology. In their proud dismissal of the nature of God as revealed in His Word as the standard by which all things – including political, economic, and governmental – are to be measured, Christ-less liberalism and Christ-less conservatism have become two wings of the same State- and tyranny-empowering dragon.

In the classic work of apologetics, Christianity in Crisis, Hank Hanegraaff applied the illuminating light of scriptural truth to the church from within, focusing on the burgeoning movement of heretical philosophies that had come to permeate Christendom at every level and on a massive scale. Christians, the book maintained, had come to embrace and emulate a wide variety of cultic systems of thought in some form or fashion, and the cost to the church had been catastrophic. Hanegraaff predicted that if this trend continued, the church would find her already questionable influence further compromised, ultimately to the point of becoming a non-factor in the culture.

To avert this crisis, we must shift from perceiving God as a means to an end to recognizing that He is the end. We must shift from a theology based on temporary perspectives to one based on eternal perspectives.

And while change must come, it clearly will not come easily. Those who are feeding this cancer occupy some of the most powerful platforms within Christianity. They control vast resources and stand to lose multiplied millions of dollars if they are exposed.

The stakes are so high that those who are plunging Christianity into crisis seem willing to do and say virtually anything to silence opposition and rally support.[1]

Was Hanegraaff’s warning heeded? Has Christendom embraced God as its ultimate end (or even as its ultimate beginning), submitting to His will wherever it may lead? Or is He still largely viewed as a tool to be used in the exercise of our will and pursuit of our desires all on our schedule?

Put another way, have you ever heard of Joel Osteen?

In the era of American Christ-less Christianity, the answer is clear and horrifying. The church has been utterly compromised, giving herself over to a Mr. Potato Jesus brand of man-centered religion that encourages adherents to add or remove any accessory from their customizable little pseudo-god in pursuit of personal acceptance and corporate relevance. The church has come to openly embrace virtually every counter-Christian concept in some form or fashion. As a result, the term “Christian” itself has lost most of its definitive power. It has become little more than a synonym for “good person.” That is, if you still believe in “good.” The results of this have been predictably devastating to the church, and where the church has been so effectively crippled by her enemies, the culture at large has suffered incalculable loss.

Biblical Christianity finds itself under siege from without and actively undermined from within. A nation once consecrated to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has fallen into a state of complete rebellion.

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Terms of Engagement

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In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis described the path of the Common Believer as follows:

The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says, ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.’ [2]

This is a fine initial description of the core truth that will serve as our guide. Christ wants all of you and He wants all of me. You and I are called to fully submit every area of life to Him. Our notions of politics, the arts, education, and economics are all to be subjected completely to His will if we are to have any hope of peace, prosperity, and victory in the culture war that has ravaged the America that God has given us. It is from this perspective that Fire Breathing Christians seeks to empower each and every Common Believer. It is from this launching point that we will examine the spirit of relativism that has consumed the culture and the spirit of compromise that has corrupted the church.

We will see—many times in our adversaries’ own words—crystal clear expressions of rebellion against and contempt for the God of Christianity. We will witness the enemy boldly proclaim, exalt, and advocate opposition to virtually every clearly pronounced truth of Scripture. We will then examine these actions and the motivations behind them in light of biblical truth. In this, we will gain a crucial understanding of not only what the enemies of Christianity are doing, but why they are compelled to do so.

This understanding is vital. After all, if we do not know what our adversaries are doing and why, any attempt to effectively engage them on the cultural battlefield will prove futile. Only when we have this knowledge in hand are we properly equipped to achieve victory. Only then can we finally liberate American culture from the secular forces of relativism and humanism that have come to dominate and enslave her. With our enemies identified, their strategies understood and the battlefield surveyed, we will then fix our minds on the God-given blueprint for victory.

As we consider the many challenges before us and begin down the path towards cultural engagement, we are well served to consciously cling to three essential aspects of the Holy Spirit as evidenced in the life of the obedient Common Believer:

  1. A humble spirit—We must never forget that every slave of the enemy is only acting according to their fallen nature. We were once just as they are now. We must always earnestly pray for their regeneration by God’s sovereign hand and treat them accordingly: with love, patience, and respect whenever possible. Our boldness must always be “in the Lord,” and not of ourselves.
  2. A servant’s spirit—We must always aspire to actively, consciously submit to the will of God the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us. We must serve Him completely and in all areas of life.
  3. A martyr’s spirit—We must be willing to pay any price for the sake of advancing the Kingdom of Christ. Any means any.

While our God has baptized us with Spirit and fire, we must never imagine for a moment that one will ever contradict the other. The passion and power given every Common Believer is essential to success, but we must remain vigilant against our inclination to pervert or distort these treasures for the purpose of self-exaltation or excessive criticism of another.

Through Christ and our complete submission to His will in all things, there is no obstacle, challenge, or opponent that we cannot conquer. Through a process of thoughtful, prayerful preparation followed by obedient execution of His perfect plan for battle, we can finally engage the culture, achieve victory, and restore our fallen nation.

Fire Breathing Christian is aimed at guiding and encouraging the Common Believer through this process. It is my hope that readers will come to realize what may at first seem to be an unexpected benefit from such a blog as this: everyday application.

The goal here is to encourage and guide every Common Believer toward everyday study and application of the revealed truth of Holy Scripture. If Fire Breathing Christian is to be rightly applied, the first step in that application will always be to seek, find, and submit to truth as revealed in the Bible.  That is where God-given hope and power lie in their undiluted, unmatched, and eternally relevant form. This is where our fire is fed.

The great challenges facing our country cannot be met on a national level if they are not first overcome in each of our hearts and homes. It is in the everyday life of the Common Believer that this culture war will be won or lost, so our growth is essential. It is essential to our peace, our happiness, and our ultimate victory.

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The Secular Inquisition

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You and I live in a post-Christian America that is rapidly transitioning into an aggressively anti-Christian state. This shift can still be reversed, but only for a little while longer and only if Common Believers embrace their responsibility to engage the culture. It is my prayer and hope that our God will make use of these words to encourage and empower you to that end.

The Fire Breathing Christian has become both an endangered species and the most feared of creatures from the liberal humanist perspective now dominating the scene. I am convinced that by removing Spirit- and fire-filled believers from that endangered list we can both help every anti-Christian leftist and conservative in the nation realize their darkest fears and return America to a God-glorifying foundation. Put another way, we can accomplish great things and have a whole lotta fun in the process.

Remember always that true Common Believers will be hated.

American culture is at war with God, His Word, and His people. The active suppression and silence of all Christian thought is a primary goal of the forces currently guiding secular civilization. We now live in an age of Secular Inquisition and must prepare accordingly.

So I invite you now, one Common Believer to another, that we might begin this most important journey together in the name of the one true God, who is a consuming fire…

This post is based on the introduction from Fire Breathing Christians, a book that I wrote in 2009/2010 in an attempt to encourage and equip Christians. I’ve modified the original intro to try and help address the purpose of this blog and answer the frequent question: “What do you mean by Fire Breathing Christian?”

I hope that this is helpful in explaining my perspective and the intended purpose of the fire breathing theme. As always, please test anything I (or anyone else) might say in the perfect light of Christ as revealed in His Word.

Thank you for your time and interest in these things!

Soli Deo Gloria,

SAB

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Retarded by Design: The Mind-Blowing Success of State-Controlled “Education”

 

 

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[1] Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1993), p.12

[2] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity ( New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2001) p. 196-197

 © 2014 Scott Alan Buss – All Rights Reserved.

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