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Fire for the Altar

Updated: Apr 30

Pastor Michael Fratt


Sermon Transcription:

Turning your Bibles to Leviticus chapter 10. Yeah, we're going to Leviticus today, so it'll be good. The title of my message is "Fire for the Altar," and I'm going to read in Leviticus. It's an interesting story that started as I was just reading in my devotional time. You read through, you know, go through the Bible each year, and I usually read a different translation, and this year I'm trying kind of a paraphrase. Not a word-for-word translation, and as I'm reading through this story, and the paraphrase at least, just kind of stuck out to me. And it's one of those stories that don't always make sense. You know, you read the Bible, and let's be honest, there are times you read stories and you're like, "Lord, if you don't bring clarity to this story, then I'm not going to know what's going on." And this is one of those stories. This is one of those stories that kind of strikes a little bit of fear in you, in one sense, but at the same time, it's one of those stories that there's a depth to it if you're willing to go a little bit further. So that's what we're going to do today. We're going to go a little bit further.

So Leviticus chapter 10: 1-7, and I'm reading out of the New Living Translation, which is a bit of a paraphrase, but throughout the message, sometimes in the Old Testament, the paraphrases make it just a little bit easier for us to understand. So I'm going to read through that. "Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu put coals of fire in their incense burners and sprinkled incense over them. In this way, they displayed the Lord by burning before him the wrong kind of fire, different than he had commanded." Now, some translations translate that as unauthorized or strange or a profane fire, and we'll talk about that more in just a few moments. "Fire blazed forth from the Lord's presence and burned them up, and they died there before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, 'This is what the Lord meant when he said, "I will display my holiness through those who come near me. I will display my glory before all the people."' And Aaron was silent. Then Moses called for Mishael and Elzaphan, Aaron's cousins, the sons of Aaron's uncle Uzziel. He said to them, 'Come forward and carry away the bodies of your relatives from in front of the sanctuary to a place outside the camp.' So they came forward and picked them up by their garments and carried them out of the camp, just as Moses had commanded. Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, 'Do not show grief by leaving your hair uncombed or by tearing your clothes. If you do, you will die, and the Lord's anger will strike the whole community of Israel. However, the rest of the Israelites, your relatives, may mourn because of the Lord's fiery destruction of Nadab and Abihu. But you must not leave the entrance of the Tabernacle, or you will die, for you have been anointed with the Lord's anointing oil.' So they did as Moses commanded."

Heavenly Father, I thank you for this word, and I pray God, as we hear it today, Lord, that I would hide behind the veil of the Holy Spirit. Lord, it would be you speaking. Lord, it would be you speaking your word to us today and what you want the depth of this story in our lives and how you want it to be applied. God, have your way today, I pray in Jesus' name.

Now, fire is used throughout the Bible in very kind of unique and kind of pivotal moments, right? And usually when it comes up, there's a seriousness to it. There's something for us to take a moment and to look at. The symbol is powerful. It can stand for consecration. It can stand for illumination. It can stand for purification. And it can stand for judgment. And we need to be able to understand exactly what's being said. I was reading a Christian forum, and they wrote a post, and I thought, well, this is the best way. No reason to rewrite it myself. This is the best way. And it says, "The symbolism of fire in the Bible is rich and layered. It often represents God's presence and divine judgment. Fire is a visual manifestation of God as when Moses encounters God in the burning bush. It signifies purification and transformation, like refining gold in a furnace. Fire symbolizes God's wrath. This is evident in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah where fire and brimstone rained from the heavens to annihilate cities steeped in wickedness. It is important to note that the fire's destructive power is not arbitrary but is a response to extreme human sinfulness and disobedience." So when fire is mentioned, it stands out. But when it stands out, we usually understand the significance. The writers of the Bible are very clear. They don't leave any guessing as to what the fire is in that moment. In every instance that you read it, you usually grasp the importance of fire. And the fire holds true for today and everyday life.

Fire can be used to cook us a delicious meal, or it can be the headline of a tragic story. The bottom line is we're taught as a child that fire should be respected, right? Don't play with fire. How many things, when I was growing up, you know, we still had the stoves that weren't electric, you know, or you had a fireplace that you didn't just flip a button and the gas comes on. But you were taught at a very early age, "Don't touch. Don't touch," because you knew you would get burned. You knew that there was a significance, even though as a child, that glow draws you, as it might as it does much today if you're sitting around a fire with friends. That glow, it provides heat. It provides warmth. It provides light so that you can see. But you know not to touch it, right? You know not to go near the fire. So it holds true in what we do today. And you're thinking, "Well, why all this talk about fire?" Metaphorically speaking, there is a fire burning inside you. We have passions. We have desires. We have ideas, emotions just waiting to be unleashed at any moment. And we need to learn to control them. Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes the timing is good. A lot of times, though, we get it wrong, right? And it usually has a deal with other people, your spouse or that friend makes you angry, your kid makes you angry, or you know, and you go on anger, but just there, there's passions. There's things that come up. You're watching your favorite sporting event. It's going to come out, you know? There's a fire. There's something in you. If you're starting a new project or a new job or you're ripping out your house, well, you may not be too excited in the beginning, but as you get closer to the end, there's a passion that comes out. There's an excitement because you're doing something. You get new clothes. You're getting ready to travel like Pastor Stan and Inna today. There's these desires when you're young, people always ask you the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" There's something burning within you, and it's okay. It's a good fire. The same can be said for our relationship with God, though he's different than humanity, and actually, God breathed that fire into us when he breathed life into us. When he breathed that soul into us when we were just being formed in our mother's wombs, that he gave us tools and resources so that we can manage that fire.

He started first by giving us natural instincts. If you're nailing something, which that's not me. I'm not very good at construction because I've had the natural instinct fail me, that when you go to hammer, you miss the nail and hit your hand, right? The first thing you do is jerk back. When danger comes your way, there's a natural instinct. You know if you dive into water to hold your breath, there's natural instincts, things that God gave us so that we can control, whether subconsciously or not. He also gave us our parents, our guardians. He gave us friends. He gave us spouses. Lord knows he gave us kids. They help reign that fire, right? They guide us along the way, providing feedback if you want to use it. But then he gave us society. He gave us law enforcement and medicine, and he gave us entertainment. He gave us all these other things that all aid in helping to guide us as we learn to control this fire.

But that's not all. Some of the greatest things that God gave to us, most importantly, were the spiritual things. He gave us the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit to live within us. That's the greatest thing to help control the fire when you become a Christian. But he gave us the word of God, to that written word of God to give us instructions. He gave us prayer, accessible 24/7, so that we can talk to him, and he can guide us through that. He gave us the opportunity to gather together with the body of Christ, brothers and sisters that will help us along the way. So he gave sermons and books and conferences and all these wonderful things that come. They're all tools to help us along the way.

We get the picture, right? That the fire is not and should not be burning out of control. There are things to help us. If you read scripture after scripture, you pull scientific evidence, you share stories, all about fire, we're all going, it's all going to come to the same understanding. Do are we on the same page? We get that, right? Okay, now let's return to the story of Nadab and Abihu. What they did can apply to us today. See, if you go a little bit in the history, Moses was a leader and a prophet that God appointed to lead the people of Israel to the promised land. Now, the promised land, obviously, was the promise that God gave to Abraham, the patriarch, or the father of the group of Israelites, and said, "I'm going to take them to a promised land." Now, they obviously had to go some different places along the way. They went to Egypt, and so this is the point where they've come out of Egypt, and now they're a bit in the wilderness. They're kind of on their way to the promised land, meandering through there, and Moses, God begins to give Moses all of these rules and restrictions, a lot of it to control the fire, so to speak, that we have inside.

Now, he had a brother, Aaron, and God appointed Aaron and his sons and his family to be the priests, to be the church staff, to be the pastor, to be those that help along the way in the tabernacle, in the church, and they were given specific commands. There were things that God spoke to them. There were things that he spelled out. There was no miscommunication. It was very clear what they were and were not supposed to do, these priests. So it was the first day of work for Nadab and Abihu, the first day. They had spent seven days being consecrated. They spent seven days going through a purification ceremony so that they could enter into the presence of the Lord, to the altar. And this was the eighth day, the eighth day, right? First day going to work, had all their garb on, everything they were supposed to. I mean, God got so specific, he told them the underwear they were supposed to wear. They didn't just run out to, you know, wilderness Target and pick up some Hanes, right? God said, "I want this. I want this. I want you to wear this." He put everything together so they were ready for day one. And all they had to do, right, was to light the coals of the incense burner. It was like a golden pot, right, that had coals in it. They were to light the coals, place the incense on it, and then bring it to the altar of the Lord.

Needless to say, they failed, spectacularly, they failed. Now that's a first day of work. Have you ever had a first day of work, right? I've had first days of work where you show up and you don't know what you're doing. I remember in my early 20s, I was in the midst, this is before I went to Bible school, and I was looking for a job. 9/11 had just happened. I was working at Delta at the time in Atlanta, but my parents were moving to Ohio. And needless to say, Delta was trying to shed employees because people weren't flying. So I had to leave that job, and I was looking for a job. And I went into Target to find a job, just a little part-time job, something to kind of, you know, hold me over. And I get there, apply, do the interview. I get a phone call the next day. "Will you come and, based on your experience, we don't want you just to be a regular team member. We want you to manage the whole front end of the store." I thought, "Well, you know, I don't know how that's going to go." You know, I had done retail before, but manage the whole front end of a Target's another story. So when you show up on your first day, I want to put my good foot forward, right? But it was so overwhelming. I didn't know the lingo. I didn't know how to get the slushie out of the slushie machine, you know? When people wanted to return something, you have to tell them the policy, and people, they're nasty when they want to return something and you say no, you know? So, needless to say, the first day of the job was very stressful, but I made it through. But Nadab and Abihu didn't make it through the first day. They showed up with all their uniform and everything and dropped dead. That's rough. That's very rough. But something's amiss.

You think well, wait a minute, I don't understand. How does this happen? How does this work? How does God say to them, basically, "You've messed up"? Well, we can go all the way back to Exodus 30 when we see the duties that were given to them. They were given the duties, and this is what it says in verse 9 of Exodus 30: "You shall not offer a strange incense on it," talking about the altar, "or a burnt offering or grain offering, nor shall you pour a drink offering." You're not to do that. Yet, they did. They brought a fire. They brought a strange, a profane, an unauthorized fire, an unholy fire before the Lord. Why? Well, it doesn't go into an explanation of what they did. It doesn't say. We'll never know for certain what that strange fire was, but we do know this: that they brought a fire, a strange one. God responded in fire, and it consumed them and killed them because it was defiled. That's what it said. They brought a strange, defiled fire.

So, what they forgot was that God is holy. He's perfect. He's good. He's righteous. He's worthy of complete devotion. But unfortunately, we forget that sometimes these days. In today's we treat Him like He's one of us. But no, no, no. God is God. He came in human form as Jesus. He gives us His Holy Spirit to dwell within us. But make no mistake about it: God is holy, and He expects holiness in return. That He does not expect you to just think that, you know, "Jesus is my homeboy" or "Jesus, you know, we got... we got it worked out. I can do what I want to do because Jesus understands." No, Jesus does not understand. You want Him to understand, but what Jesus wants you to understand is that is not the agreement. When you come under the lordship of Jesus, you stay under the lordship of Jesus. You walk under the lordship of Jesus. He has no under, you don't get a side deal.

Now, it wasn't the fire or the incense that was holy. It was the altar that was holy. The altar represented the place that God dwells, and He expected them to come in that way. But Nadab and Abihu, who they were, disobedience. They didn't... They were disobedient. They didn't take their job very seriously, and subsequently, they basically were telling the Lord that we're not going to take you seriously, and it cost them something. It cost them a very heavy price.

But let's bring it home. That's the story, and we know it, right? We understand it. But how does this apply to us today? How do we take something out of Leviticus and apply that to us today? It's easy to apply the Gospels. It's easy to apply the Pauline Epistles. It's so easy to apply those Psalms and Proverbs. I mean, we pull little Proverbs out, we post it and all that stuff. But Leviticus? You're like, "I don't know about that."

We apply it today because we can ask a simple question: What fire are you bringing to the altar? You're going to bring some. Every human will be asked to step to the altar of the Lord. We'll be asked to stand before Him and bring a fire before Him. Now, we're not talking about just when you die in eternity. If you wait till then to bring the right kind of fire, it's going to be way too late. We're talking about today. Today. What fire are we bringing before Him today?

Let's start with a better question: What altar are we approaching or bowing to? We can talk about the fire, but remember, the fire isn't what's holy. It was the altar that was holy. So then, the question becomes: What altar are you bowing to? Is it the altar of God or is it the altar of self?

See, many Christians, we like to contrast God with the world, right? You'll hear people... the world, the world, the world. May I submit to you: it's not the world that we should contrast God with, it's self. The world offers a lot. The world offers everything under the sun, but everything that it offers is just trying to get you to feed. It's trying to feed self. It's trying to boast up self. It's trying to appeal to yourself. We can't blame the world because there are plenty of people throughout history who have lived in the world and did not bow to the altar of self. Now, at some point, we always do, but the world wants us to self-indulge. It wants us to self-sustain. It wants us to self-care, all of these little things that we do. But really, it's just selfishness.

Now, there's a great authority called Wikipedia, and Wikipedia defines self. It says, "In philosophy, the self is an individual's own being, knowledge, and values, the relationship between those attributes." It's appropo that somebody wrote that on Wikipedia because remember, it's Wikipedia. It's written by anybody. Basically what it's talking about is all of you, all of you, your knowledge, your values, your traits, everything that you are. That's what self is. And the world is always knocking at the door, trying to tap into that. Always trying to tap into self, always trying to tap into what you want, always trying to tap into what makes you feel good.

But let me tell you what the Bible says. The Bible says there's another word for self. It's called flesh. It's flesh. And in Galatians, the Apostle Paul writes to the Galatian church and he sums up what happens when flesh or self manifests and is not checked by a holy God. Galatians 5:19-21: "When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, that self, that's flesh, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, bing quarreling, jealousy, outburst of angers, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these." It's not even an exhaustive list. Let me tell you again, this is what Paul is saying as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the kingdom of God. Those are strong words, yes, because at the altar of self, anything goes. We can choose our own truth. We can choose our own lifestyle. We can choose our own gender. We can choose our own facts. We can choose our own God. We can choose anything we want and just say, "That's what works for me. Now, whatever you want to do, boo, you do, but I'm going to do this. I'm going to go here, I'm going to go there," because it's unchecked.

And you see that more every single day, do we not? We see that the division, particularly within this country. But it's not just in America. There may be folks watching online that aren't... maybe in America, maybe they're watching somewhere else. It's coming to their country. This is not an American issue. This is not a Portland issue. This is not a church issue. This is a global, worldwide issue. Self is running amok. It's running unchecked. People are able to go and do what they want to do, and we expect everyone else to agree with it or at least accept it without any saying anything, and if you do say something, we don't want to hear it or you're wrong. It's becoming us versus them, and that's what happens when the enemy, who is the father of self, the father of the flesh, when he's allowed to run unchecked, he just loves it because it creates division, it creates lustful pleasures, it creates all of the things that Paul says, "I'm telling you, this is what's going to happen in our head." It revolves around us. That's everything, and other humans become a byproduct, consideration, because self becomes revolving.

Whether it be in marriage, most of the problems when people want to get divorced, you have celebrities do all the time, they say that we're getting divorced, and what's the reason that they put on there? Irreconcilable differences. You know what that means? AKA, I'm selfish and I don't want to work on this. That's what they should put as the definition. We're getting divorced because I'm selfish. We're getting divorced because I don't want to give this up. We're getting divorced because I don't want to yield or sacrifice to the other person. Put that definition, let me work for the city clerk and rewrite that stuff down there's no reason to say for irreconcilable differences. It's irreconcilable because you don't want to let go of self. That's why. It's the same with anything else. If we were to go and to look at why this doesn't work out, why this doesn't work out, why we can't get along in politics, why it's self, self, self. That's the basis of it.

Then we look at God, the big God, big G, right? Because where self is really us being our own little gods, that's the first sin in the Garden. You know, Satan came to them and said, "Did God really say he doesn't want you to eat of the fruit? Because then you'll become like him, like him knowing." And the moment they ate the fruit, that flesh, that sinful nature based on self came in, and now it's fin for myself. And look exactly what happened. God comes walking in the cool of the day, starts with Adam, the first one he created. "Where are you at?" "Huh?" Adam wasn't deaf. Nobody else was in there. "Where are you at?" "I'm hiding." "Why?" "Who told you?" "Why are you hiding?" "Because I'm naked." "Who told you were naked?" "That woman you gave me." Right? He I mean, just abandon her, like quick and in a hurry. But last I checked, he was standing at the tree when she started eating, and then he goes... So, God goes, "Okay, well, you're blaming the woman. Let's talk to the woman. Why... why are you there, naked?" "It's the snake. It's the animal you created." Really? What they're saying is, you, Adam, basically said, "It's your fault, God, because you gave me this woman. If you had not given me this woman, then I wouldn't have been here." The woman says, "It's not my fault. It's the snake's fault. Had you not created the snake, I wouldn't be in this situation." See, the selfishness. It's all about self. And so, we regulate God now to a spiritual or religious being, and he is expected to conform to our humanistic ideology, our cultural preferences. He's expected to bend to our politics. He's expected to bend to our ethnic pride. He's expected to bend to all of the ways that we do things. "God, you need to bow to me. You need to bow to my political party. You need to bow to my ideology. You need to bow to what I think is right and wrong." And how many of you know that God will not under any circumstance bow to the altar of self, that sinful, wicked, arrogant self? He is the creator. We are the created. How many of you have children, right? They learn that. It's funny how they never learn the word "yes" first. You ever notice that with kids? None of them ever learn the word "yes" first. Never. It's like they got to be like 10 before they learn that word. The word they learn first is "no" because we all learned it first. So, in English, it's a little two-letter word, and we learn it like it's the first thing: mama, daddy, no. That's it. And that's the order: mama, daddy, no. But God, no. But God, no. But God is the one that defines truth. God is the one that defines holy. God is the one that defines the altar. And it's Jesus. And the Bible says, at the end, every knee will bow to the altar of Jesus and confess with their mouth, he is Lord.

So then, the question is, okay, so what altar are you kneeling at? What altar are we kneeling at? The altar of self or the altar of God? To be at the altar of God, we first have to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. You can't even remotely approach the altar of God until you have the covering of Jesus, until you're in a relationship, because Jesus is perfect and holy. And Jesus is the one that invites you into this dwelling place. He's the one that invites you into be at the altar of God. So, if you don't have that down and you haven't said no to the world, denying yourself, and yes to a relationship, then you're not even remotely getting close to the altar of God. You're not even allowing Him to work in your life. You're not allowing Him to change your heart and your mind. You're not allowing Him to affect the way you think or see or hear or speak or the way that you act. But if you do, I guarantee you, your life will change. Everything about you will change.

Now, the Apostle Paul, adds a contrast to the altar of self because if we're going to approach the altar of God, what's that going to be like? He says, "Well, let me give you a contrast. The altar of self and the working of the flesh is the altar of God and the working of the Holy Spirit." So, he continues with the Galatian church in Galatians 5:22-23, and he says, "But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." So, He produces in you the ability to control self because that's the heart of God. That's the altar that He's at. He says, "There is no law against these. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to the cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit's leading in every part of our life." So, we understand the standard for the altar. And I hope that we would say, "Okay, I want to be at the altar of God." Great decision.

Now, we get to the altar of God, and the next question is, what kind of fire are you bringing to God's altar? Because Nadab and Abihu were obviously... they were consecrated. They were purified. They were set apart. They were put together to approach that altar of God. So, if you're moving in that direction, what kind of fire are you bringing? Is it strange? Is it profane? Is it unauthorized, unholy? What fire are you bringing? See, the Lord speaks through His Word. Worship, prayer, fellowship should always be an extension of what He says. The Holy Spirit will lead you into truth based on His Word. Others, that's people like me, every podcast you hear, every sermon that you hear, every fellowship when you're conversation, every song that you listen to, all should be an extension, encouraging you in the Word, changing you through the Word, preparing you through the Word, helping you to be that person who loves God and loves people. That's what should be happening in our lives when we get together. That's what should be happening.

It's not culture. It's not preference. It's not opinion or personality. It's the Word of God. That's how we understand what He says. But what fire? Because all those things affect the fire that lives inside of you. And are you cultivating that fire? Are you keeping it burning? Or are you doing what it takes to say, "I want this fire within me. I want this fire to be pleasing to the Lord"? The prophet Jeremiah, in a conversation with the Lord, speaks about his persecution. Jeremiah was going through persecution. The Israelites were being captive, being captive and held and taken to Babylon in droves. And Jeremiah was in there trying to talk to them, trying to be at the altar of God. But the people were mocking him. They were making fun of him. They were turning him into jokes. And so, Jeremiah goes into his prayer closet and says, "God, I've got to talk to you about this." And he says in Jeremiah 29, he says, "If I say I'll never mention the Lord or speak in His name, His word burns in my heart like a fire. It's like a fire in my bones. I'm worn out trying to hold it in. I can't do it. I can't keep quiet. This fire burns within me. It's shut up in my bones." He says, "Absolutely not. The fire lit by the Holy Spirit will not silence me." Actually, he goes on and says, "I've heard the many rumors about me." Sometimes people talk about you, actually. Somebody's going to talk about you. If you think that nobody says anything about you behind your back, let me help you. They do. Sometimes it's your own spouse. Sometimes it's your closest friend. We're human. People are going to agitate us. People are going to do things.

They're going to talk about you." And Jeremiah says, "I've heard the many rumors about me. They gave him a nickname, the man who lives in terror. He's always so down. That Jeremiah, he's so boring. He just comes in and just sucks the life right out of the room. 'Woe is me.' Like, 'Don't honey, don't invite him over.' 'Well, I just wanted to be nice.' 'No, no, no, don't invite Jeremiah. You can invite anybody else. Just don't invite him, right? Just don't invite Jeremiah. That's just... don't want him over. Like, I'll meet him on the street and say hello, but keep it moving. I don't want Jeremiah at the house. It's just... it's too much for me.' They mocked him. They joked him. And he says, 'They threatened if you say anything, we will report it.' Because basically, the Babylonians wanted to know what was happening. The religious leaders, like everybody was after everybody else. And so, they said, 'If you say anything, we'll report it. Even my old friends are watching me. They're not even his friends anymore. They've left him and waiting for a fatal slip. He will trap himself,' they say, 'and then we will get our revenge on him.' But the Lord stands beside me like a great warrior. Before him, my persecutors will stumble. They cannot defeat me. They will fail and be thoroughly humiliated. Their dishonor will never be forgotten. Oh, Lord of Heaven's Armies, you test those who are righteous, and you examine the deepest thoughts and secrets.' He examines the fire that's burning within you. 'Let me see your vengeance against them, for I have committed my cause to you. Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord. For though I was poor and needy, he rescued me. He rescued me from my oppressors.' Jeremiah knew the altar of God was holy, and he came in humility. He said, 'I'm bringing an offering of humility before you, Lord. Everybody's against me. My friends, nobody, nobody. They mock me. They ridicule me. But God, I will not let one person on this planet stop me from letting the fire of the Holy Spirit burn inside of me.'

But how many times do we do that? Somebody posts something on social media. I've seen it in churches. Pastors get down because somebody posted, 'His message was boring. It was too long.' You know, 'He looked a hot mess.' You know, 'The worship team, oh, she couldn't sing. She was jumping around. They were out of tune.' And right, people get upset. It could be from the media to the kids to just anything on social media. I mean, how many celebrities have gotten off of social media because they say, 'Well, I need a mental health break. It consumes me because of what people are saying.' That's because you're moved by the fear of man, not by the fire within.

You're moved around, what people say matters to you more than what God says. That means the fire within you is not burning bright. The fire within you is getting dim. I want the fire that Jeremiah had. I don't know about you, but I want that fire. I don't want to be moved if somebody watches this message and posts on your social media that it was terrible. Whatever, I don't care. I know that I prayed, I know God gave me a word. Am I the most eloquent speaker? No. Am I the best theologian? No. But I got up and did what God asked me to do through the pastor of this church. So, I don't care what anybody else has to say, and that's how we should live our everyday life, not just a public one behind the scenes. I don't care.

But how many times do we bring a strange fire, a compromised fire, a fire influenced by culture, influenced by our own ideas, our own desire for pleasure and fun? Are we bringing a religious fire? Are we bringing a greedy one, a lustful fire, a prideful fire, a lying fire, a selfish fire? If it's strange to a holy God, if it's profane to a holy God, if it's unauthorized, it will not be accepted, and God will unleash His fire to consume it.

You say, 'What do you mean? I go to church, I pray, I read, I listen to songs, I do all of these different things.' But it's a heart and a mindset, it's a posture of the heart, it's an attitude of the mind. Because you can love the Lord, you can say, 'Lord, I want to do this in Your name,' or you can be zealous. Because you can apply the same things to the 'I'm going to be zealous, I'm going to learn this, I'm going to do that.' But sometimes deep within, we still harbor some things. We allow other people to move us. Are we holding on to unforgiveness or hurt or offense? Are we worrying about the bills or the future or our health? Are we focusing on a situation or that lost loved one, that if they would just come back and our focus moves off of the Lord, and all of a sudden they begin determining the fire that burns within us?

Are we living to have a bigger house, a nicer car, make more money? 'Lord, if I could just have more money, I'd serve You. As a matter of fact, I'll give more than 10%. Lord, I'll give 25%. I'll give you a quarter. You give me a million, I'll give you a quarter million.' God doesn't need our money. Are we spending more time scrolling through social media, wanting stuff, wishing to be other places, looking at half-dressed people, feeding our political appetite? Are we taking liberties with our freedoms in drinking or eating and just indulging in things, saying, 'Oh, it's just on the weekend. Oh, it's just that one time.' Are we brushing off addictions or crude jokes or bad attitudes or shady business practices, things that we're doing that nobody else really knows, it's just a little bit here and there?

I remember when I worked for a job one time, and they came in and they were talking about, you know, this, that, and the other thing, and then they made the comment, they said, 'You know, if you take a pencil home, it's stealing.' And I thought, now that's just silly. It's a pencil. Surely you can afford one little pencil, right? Yeah, my mind, that one little comment just threw me. Like, you can't afford this big old corporate office, and you tell me I take one little pencil home, I'm stealing? What are you going to do, persecute me, prosecute me? It's one little pencil. You're barely paying me any money as it is. You know, actually, I deserve the pencil. As a matter of fact, I'm taking the pencil home today. I don't even write with a pencil, but I'm taking it home because I can. But you know what? It is stealing. I didn't pay for it. I didn't pay for it. My attitude, just because I think I deserve it, because they're not paying me well, I took the job at the rate they gave me, so now I need the bonus for a pencil. Do you know what I'm saying? It's an attitude of the heart. It's a posture.

I have loved ones I want to be saved, but do they consume my life? Would I like more money? You give me a million dollars after church, I will donate and tithe to here. I'll be so happy. But is that what it is? That what I'm waiting for? What do we want on social media? You say, 'Well, I don't really lust.' Well, let me go through your feed. Half the feed, half the people on your feed aren't dressed appropriately. So now you have body issues. Now you're looking at the vacations, and so you're like, 'I want to go to this exotic locale.' My bank account says 1,000, but the exotic locale is 50,000. So now I need to work more. I need to do, do you see it? It just starts this spiral, and all of a sudden the fire within you gets a little strange. The fire within you gets a, you're worried. Now you're worried about bills, you're worried about the future.

It's an election year here in America, and you can already feel the anxiety. What's going to happen? Honestly, I don't care who gets in the White House, because my King, He's on the throne. My King, the one who's in charge of my finances, not inflation, the one who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the one who gives me the money that I need to make it every day. Guess what? He's not sitting in heaven surprised that the FED is not cutting the rate. He's not sitting in heaven like, 'I'm telling you, they're just not doing it right down there.' Well, Michael, you're going to have to, you're going take it down a notch. You can't buy two apples, can't buy the organic ones, you have to get the other one. God's not sitting there surprised at what's happening in life. He is Jehovah Jireh, our provider.

So, He's not worried, they can do whatever they want. We're not moved by that. He's not sitting there watching the stock market like, 'Oh, come on, Gabriel. I hope it goes up today. Come on. Oh no, his retirement's in trouble. I don't know, can we supplement that if it dips? Can we supplement his retire, no.' He's not worried about that. Sometimes God allows that to go to zero because He says, 'I'm going to teach you something.' I had that happen to me a couple of years ago. I was always the type of person, let's get a little transparent right. I was the type of person who liked, I didn't grow up with money, so I wanted to live like I wanted to live, not like to, I wanted to live a more luxurious lifestyle. I didn't have the money or the job, especially working for a church, but I had this little plastic card that said American Express, and I thought just that, it's an express way to get the American dream. The problem was, they want the money back. Now, that's not part of the American dream. You're supposed to just give it to me, I'm entitled to it. I mean, for goodness sakes, I'm carrying your little card. It's basically like advertisement. So instead of Google paying me, but doesn't work that way. You have to pay it back. And I got in a little trouble with American Express because I spent a little more than they wanted me to spend, and then they wanted their money back. So you get a little part-time job, so I had to pay that off. And after paying that off and learning that very valuable lesson that I do not want to owe them my money, I want to use it for what God has given it to me, I started saving money, had a nice little savings account, and I thought, this is great, now this is how it works. Until the Holy Spirit comes knocking.

'Hey, I want you to give this amount.' Lord, that must be the enemy because I am saving that for something. I was actually at a banquet for an organization that helps people coming off the street with drugs and alcohol and different things, and I was just attending. I actually was with there with someone else, and so I was attending, and knew that it was a fundraiser, the banquet was a fundraiser, but I'm just a, look, I came all the way here with the other person, so just be happy I was there, and it was in the middle of COVID, so I was like, I'm risking my life to be here, you know, you should, you should be giving me something from the fundraiser. But I'm sitting there, and the Spirit of God begins to move those folks that had been set free, I'm telling you, oh my God, their testimony of sharing their testimony, and the worship that came from there, I mean, it hit me like a ton of bricks, the presence of God was so real.

Then they get to the part, and the special speaker gets up, and it's only just them, and then he's really speaking to those online, and he's telling them like, this is the work that God does, and we need you to give, so we can expand, so we can do these different things, and in my seat, I'm like, yes, Lord, I pray that they give, I pray this, do this, and God says, 'You give.' No, Lord, that was not the prayer, you misunderstood. Let me start over, 'Lord, yes, let those people online give, let the people in the house give, Lord.' 'But I want you to give.' I think something's on the line, there's some miscommunication, and I said, 'Well, what do you want me to give?' And the Lord put a number in my heart, and my immediate response was, I don't have that in my checking account, so it's not the Lord, I can't give it. And the Lord says, 'But you have it in your savings account.' Now, hold up, that's the most I've ever had in my savings account, and I'm saving that, and the Lord said, 'But is that not My money?' Well, that kind of put you against the wall, you can't say no, right?

So, I was like, kind of, you know, the Lord says, 'I want you to give, as a matter of fact, I want you to give this amount.' He went up, I should have given the first amount, then I would, it wouldn't have gone up, it was like reverse 'Price is Right,' he kept going up, and I said, 'Lord, I just, I cannot do that, I honestly cannot give that amount.' Like, there was a battle, there was a tussle there, but that's my money, I'm going to provide, and I'm going to teach you what it is. So, I wrestled, wrestled, wrestled, and I was like, well, I didn't bring any checks, and I don't even know how I'm going to give, pops up on the screen, you can give online at any time you want, I thought, these people think of everything, my goodness, right, technology, this is when it really got you.

But I couldn't even sleep that night, so I said, you know what, Lord, fine, I don't want to be the person that walks in disobedient, I don't want to be the person that blocks the blessing that you have, because I'm holding on to money that you've given me, and I gave the amount, and I thought, well, you know, okay, praise the Lord. Two weeks later, I'm at a church visiting, opening day there, you know, tithes and offering come up, we want you to give, we want you to be a part of it, praise the Lord, give this amount, now look, Lord, we're going to have to stop this, I'm just not going anywhere anymore, if somebody invites me somewhere, unless it's a restaurant or somewhere I want to go, I'm not going, that amount, that kept happening over and over through the entire summer until my account ended at zero.

I said, Lord, I don't understand. God said, because I don't need money in your account to provide for you. I need you to understand that I provide. I don't want a greedy fire. I want a fire that says, 'Lord, you are going to provide for me.' Temptation is real, the choice is ours, the action is consequential, but the Lord is holy. When we bring a fire that does not line up with the Word of God, we will encounter an all-consuming, perfect, righteous, just, holy, heavenly Father who will respond, and it will cost us something. For Nadab and Abihu, it cost them their life, and the same holds true for us. It will be death to your life. But at the same time, if we're willing to trust the Lord, we can see the difference. Because if we don't, our health, our marriages, our children, our jobs, our friendships, our entire life will be full of destruction and death and tragedy. But when we say yes to the Lord, He says, 'Watch what I will do. Watch where I will take you. Watch exactly what I will bring to you.' See, I desperately want to bring the right fire before the altar of the Lord, and I hope that's what you want as well. He invites us into a relationship, He gives us all the specifics, He provides us all the strength, He opens all the doors, He builds the fire, and He keeps it burning.

Now, it will require changes, it will require sacrifices, it will require commitment, it's going to cost us something. This fire costs something. But He walks with us, He talks with us, He guides us, He leads us, He knows the way is narrow, but He takes me all the way to the end of that sea. The fire He lights inside burns because of Him. It burns because of Jesus, who was the best human to ever live on this Earth, the best human, the best example that we could have. As we begin to look to Jesus as our example, as we begin to follow Him, as we begin to know what He wants and the fire He places inside, it begins to consume everything about us.

It becomes that refiner fire that burns away those things that are just sitting in there. It becomes that fire that purifies, it becomes the fire that illuminates things. You begin to see people differently, you begin to see your life differently, you begin to see the world different, you begin to not let those things bother you. You can say, 'I don't care about this, that, and the other thing.' Yes, in one sense, you do. Yes, in one sense, you're aware of it, you don't walk around oblivious, but it does not move me because that's not the source of the fire burning within. The source of the fire is Jesus.

So, let me ask you two questions. First, what altar are you bowing to? If it's the altar of self, or it's the altar of God. If you're burning to the altar of self, then that's the first thing you've got to get fixed. If you're here and you're burning at the altar of self, you see it there, then I would submit to you that you're probably not a Christian, or you're very nominal or lukewarm. But most likely, if you're still at the altar of self, we're talking about the first step here, you're at the altar of self, then you need to start with what Pastor Tim Delina in New York always calls the ABCs.

The first one is to admit. Admit that you're a sinner. Admit it. You have to understand that you can't just come into the altar and think, 'I'm a good person, everything's great, I do all the little things I'm told to do.' No, no, no, no. Are you a sinner? You have to admit that. We all have to admit that at some point. I had to admit that 24 years ago. I am a sinner, I am standing at the altar of self, and I am bowing to it, and I am worshiping there, and I am bringing that fire of self. I had to admit I was a sinner.

The B in the ABCs is believe. Then, you have to believe that Jesus is Lord. You have to believe that Jesus died on the cross for you. He rose again, He ascended to the Father, He gives you the Holy Spirit, He paid the price for you. The price that you could not pay because of that sinful nature that was inherent in there all those years of saying no, no, no, no, no, have to, at least at this point, turn into a yes to Jesus.

And then, C, you confess. You confess that He is Lord. And confession isn't, you know, there's a difference between 'I'm sorry' and repentance. 'I'm sorry' is, 'I got busted.' 'I'm sorry' is, 'Oh man, they found out, you know, oops, sorry, I'll try not to do that again.' Usually, how many of you know, that doesn't work. But repentance says more than 'I'm sorry.' I realize what I have done, what I have been doing, the sin that's within me is wrong, and I'm going to do everything within me, and I'm going to tell Russ, and I'm going to tell Sophia, and I'm going to tell all, I'm going to tell them that I am going to make this commitment to turn away from that so they can help me. But the biggest help is, I'm going to confess that Jesus is now Lord of my life, He's now lit the fire that burns within me, He now gets to choose what I do and where I go. He gets full reign, full control of my life. I confess Jesus is Lord. That's the ABCs part. And if that's you, in a moment, if you're here today, or even if you're watching us online, we're going to pray for you. I'm going to invite you to down front, and we're going to pray. But before I do that, perhaps you're here, you're a Christian, even if you're becoming one today, and you are at the altar of God, but you're not bringing the right fire. You're bringing a strange fire. You're bringing a fire that is profane. You're bringing an unauthorized fire. The Apostle Paul told the Roman church in his letter to Romans, he says, 'Don't copy the behavior and customs of the world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.' In other words, let the fire of God change your mind. What you dwell on, what you think about, what you want in life. Because we think about it, folks, we all do that.

I look at something on social media or magazine, I'm like, 'Man, I want to be healthy like that,' as I'm eating my cake. Not going to happen. I look at somebody rolling by in a car, and I was like, 'Oh, I want that,' as I'm waiting for the bus. You begin to covet those things that other people have. You want this, you want that. You got to let the Lord change your mind. And if you have the fire of God within you, He will begin to change your mind. Now, John the Beloved says in 1 John 2:15-17, 'Do not love this world, nor the things it offers you. For when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see.' He obviously knew social media was coming. 'And pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from the world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave.'

Imagine at one time in history, back in this day, 'Man, I wish I had that nice horse. Oh, if I could just have the one horse, you know, the horse that Centurion, that's the horse I want.' Today, you would look at them, if you were transporting time, be like, 'A horse? I want a G-Wagon.' Imagine at some point somebody was in England, and they were thinking, 'I would love to go to the New World. Man, I wish I could afford that first-class ticket on the Titanic.' In 1912, you would look at them, you'd be like, 'A first-class ticket? I want to fly Emirates. I want a private jet. I want to go on that new Royal Caribbean cruise.' Don't get me wrong, folks. I love this stuff. I'm a self-admittedly proud capitalist. I love stuff. But you can't love it more than Jesus.

You got to let the fire within you be burning for Him. You got to let the fire within you say, 'Lord, I want what you want. I want to be used by you, I want you to do whatever you want with me, I want to be in whatever church you want me to be in, I want to serve wherever you want me to serve, I want to give what you want me to give, I want to have what you want me to have.' That fire within you has got to burn bright. That fire within you has got to say, 'Jesus, more than anything else in life, I want you. More than any possession, more than any job, more than any person, more than any accolade, more than any number of likes on my post, more than anything, Jesus, I want you.'

Now, if you're here, and you're watching, and you know that there's a little part of you that's a little strange, that's a little different, that's a little off, if you know there's some part of you that's not really authorized by God, if you know there's a part of you that's a little bit profane, a little bit selfish, a little bit greedy, a little bit lustful, a little bit prideful, whatever it might be, and you know that it's strange, and you want to change, I want you to come down here and let's pray, because it will cost you something. It's going to cost you something. It's going to cost you time, it's going to cost you commitment, it's going to cost you changes, it's going to cost you your comfort zone, it's going to cost you the people you hang out with. It's going to cost you something. But the cost of saying no to the Lord is a lot more. So, I'm going to invite you to pray.

-Pastor Michael Fratt


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