By Dr. Charles E. Kinder, President Emeritus
There is an endless fire that was ignited in the first century A.D. It is burning today and will be burning as long as the world exists. It is the holy fire of God which was felt by two disciples of Jesus who were on their way to Emmaus after the death of their Lord. (Read Luke 24:13-35) The risen Christ drew near and walked with them, but they did not recognize Him. He asked about their conversation. They shared the things that had happened to their Lord. They told Him about the crucifixion and the empty tomb. They were obviously confused, so Jesus talked to them about prophecy concerning the Messiah. When they stopped for the night and were preparing to eat, Jesus held up a loaf of bread, broke it and blessed it. That is when they knew who He was. The Lord then vanished from their sight. “They said to each other, ‘Weren’t our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the Scriptures for us?” (Luke 24:32 CEB)
Pentecost Fans the Flames
After Jesus had ascended, His followers were gathered together. There was the sound of a powerful rushing wind. “They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire, alighting on each one of them.” (Acts 2:3 CEB) The Apostles were set on fire spiritually and began telling everyone about the resurrection.
Paul Carries the Torch
It amazed me when I discovered the connection of three men across eighteen centuries. The first was a man named Saul, a Jewish leader and Pharisee who had a burning desire to stop this story about a resurrection. He was on his way to Damascus with a company of men to arrest some followers of Jesus when he was made blind by a great light from Heaven. The living Christ spoke to him and his heart was set on fire with truth (Acts 9:1-19). He became the Apostle Paul who wrote most of The New Testament.
Martin Luther Kindles the Flames of Reformation
The second person in this line of holy fire was sixteen centuries later. Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic Priest, was studying Paul’s letter to the Romans. The following verses started a fire in his heart: “Since it is by faith that we are justified, let us grasp the fact that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have confidently entered into this new relationship of grace…” (Romans 5:1-2) This kindled the flames of the Protestant Reformation.
John and Charles Wesley Get Fired Up
Two centuries later the line of fire reached the third person. John Wesley was a Priest of the Church of England. He was desperately searching for a way to know that his sins were forgiven and that he had eternal life. His Moravian friends invited him to a meeting at Aldersgate Street in London. While a layman was reading Luther’s Preface to Paul’s letter to the Romans, Wesley reports, “I felt my heart strangely warmed”. The Bible verses that touched him were the same ones that fired up Luther.
After the heartwarming experience Wesley identified with the following scripture: “[God] makes… His ministers a flame of fire.” (Hebrews 1:7 ESV) His brother, Charles, had a similar experience three days earlier. They became an evangelistic team that God used to bring a spiritual awakening to the British Isles which, according to some scholars, prevented an uprising like the French Revolution.
The Fire Spreads
Do you see the line of fire moving from the Apostle Paul, to Martin Luther, to John Wesley? The Holy Spirit spread this spiritual fire from one servant of God to another in the distant future. It is amazing that the fire of God burns its way to persons yet to be born. The same fire that burned in Wesley’s heart moved across the ocean to the colonies in America and across the new world by the circuit riders. It has continued on through the years and it now burns in the hearts of our pastors whose hearts are burning with the same holy fire. Do you feel the heat? Does it warm your heart? Can you sense the passion of the movement God started when the Wesley brother’s hearts were ignited? Are you thankful for this great movement of God and that you are blessed to be a part of it? Let’s so live and give and serve and pray so that we will help keep the fire burning.
Rev. Dr. Charles E. Kinder is President Emeritus of The Foundation for Evangelism. He was instrumental in growing the ministry of the Foundation from 1977-1989, during which time programs such as The Harry Denman Evangelism Awards, Discover God’s Call, and the E. Stanley Jones Professors of Evangelism were begun. Dr. Kinder is a retired minister from the Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. He and his wife/partner in ministry, Phyllis, live in North Florida.