Friday, 6 July 2012

Carrying the torch

It comes every four years, it is a global event, the pinnacle of sporting greatness, the peak of competitive achievement, so when it comes to your doorstep even the least sporting amongst us take some notice.  The Olympic Games, as you know, are being held in London this year, and while most of us won’t be there, in a sense something of the Olympics has come to us.  The Olympic Torch has made its journey around the UK on route to London, and millions have come to get a glimpse of it.  The flame will ignite the cauldron at the Olympic Stadium, which will continue to burn for the duration of the Games.

The imagery of fire and flames are taken up repeatedly in the Bible, with wide-ranging significance.

Flames and fire are used to signify guidance in the darkness.  When the Israelites were brought out of Egyptian slavery and were being led to the Promised Land during the night the Lord led them by a pillar of fire (here).  And it is a good thing to know where you’re going.  The Bible likens itself to fire, and in the darkness of human ignorance, the fog of human opinion and the mists of human religion, the Word of God burns brightly and shines through the gloom to show us where we are and tell us where we’re going.  It tells us we all are heading towards an eternal destination, either heaven or hell.  Because of our sins we are bound for hell, but because God sent His Son to pay sin’s penalty at the cross we can go to heaven if we put our trust in Christ to save us.

The Lord Jesus died for our sins at the cross, and rose again.  Forty days later He ascended to heaven.  Prior to going back to heaven He told His disciples to take the Gospel message of salvation to the whole world, and He assured them that the Holy Spirit of God would come to empower them to do this great task.  When the Spirit came (recorded here), one of the visible manifestations of His arrival was a flame of fire upon each of the disciples.  This flame of Gospel witness which was ignited on that day has continued to burn ever since.  The religious and political leaders of that day tried to extinguish it, but it couldn’t be quenched, and religious and political powers have continued to try to douse that flame right up to the present day, but it cannot be put out, and Christians have carried the torch of the Gospel to all nations around the world bringing the warmth and light of the Gospel of Christ to those in darkness and hopeless despair.  The Bible says we are separated from God because of our sins, and not only are we separated from Him but we are helpless to do anything about it.  We cannot save ourselves from the danger we are in.  Left to ourselves our situation is hopeless.  Maybe you feel the chill of your distance from God, and you can’t see a ray of hope.  I’m glad to tell you the Gospel burns with hope – “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1 v 15).  He can rescue us from our danger and bring us into the warmth of God’s embrace and the light of God’s presence. 

That Olympic Torch has probably come to your locality, it would have been well advertised and greatly publicised, yet I’m sure many missed it.  Likewise the message of the Gospel has come to your locality – you likely know people who are saved, you perhaps know verses that tell you how you can be saved, you’ve maybe heard the Gospel preached, but it is possible to miss salvation although it is so close.  To miss out on seeing the Olympic Torch is really no big deal, but to miss out on salvation is a tragedy that can’t be imagined, much less described.  It literally would be better that you had never been born than that you die without salvation.

You may think I’m exaggerating.  I would just warn you of what the Lord Jesus said.  He spoke about a man who did die without salvation, and the Lord told us about this man’s arrival in hell.  For that man the flame of Gospel opportunity would never cross his path again, and the Lord told us the man’s testimony, he said “I am tormented in this flame.”  This is a flame that the Bible says is eternal.  With the passing of endless ages it will never go out and the tears of remorse and regret can never put it out.  The Lord Jesus said “The fire never shall be quenched.”  Be warned, and be wise.  While the light of Gospel opportunity burns come to the Lord Jesus, own up to your guilt, and trust Him to save you.