Let the righteousness of God be a holy flame that burns
Let the saving love of Christ be the measure of our lives
We believe You're all to us"
[All to Us, Chris Tomlin]
The lighting of the torch during the Olympics is one of my favorite ceremonies to watch. People from all over the world come together to pass a torch that both unifies the nations and culminates in a grand lighting of an enormous cauldron to symbolize one goal, one focus, one dream. It puts everything into perspective, that all people are gathered with a singular purpose. The unity reflects what is possible, that people can all gather with one vision in mind. When I reflect on the symbol of the flame, what I think of is a unification of even greater measures, the unification between man and God.
When a flame gets passed from one person to another during the torch passing, the recipient is at the mercy of the giver. The holder of the flame possesses something that can be kept to themselves, shared with one person, or spread out to many. The same flame gets passed from one person to another and in the passing of the flame, the light doesn't diminish, but maintains its brightness while transferring an flame of equal luminosity to another. The amazing thing is that no one owns the flame as it was freely given to them and by sharing it, the gain of another isn't a loss to them.
This is how I see the grace of righteousness. Romans 4:23"But the words "it was counted to him" (referring to Abraham) were not written for his sake alone, 24but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification." It is the righteousness of Christ that burns in our lives as our righteousness. The righteousness of Christ is something that we either have or we don't. It is something that is given to us freely, not because we have earned it. And once we have received it, it is something we can walk in confidently without needing to be righteous on our own count. Perfection, moral goodness, and good works all become secondary attributes in our lives as what makes us pure and perfect is the blood of Christ and not our efforts.
This holy flame of righteousness that burns is Christ and as we accept Christ into our lives, the flame grows brighter as we stop trying to hide it from others. I heard Francis Chan's wife speak about how we diminish God's glory through our attitudes and our actions and that in everything we do, God's revealed glory through our lives is at stake. The truth is, if we let Christ shine through us, and we don't cover the holy flame that burns with our own idols, that the flame is more evident to others. We have to remember it isn't what we do that brings us into the greatest positions of eternity as children of God, but Christ covering us with His love and His ultimate sacrifice.
The holy flame that burns, in my opinion, does 4 things.
1. It marks us as His children
As tattoos in many tribes show belonging to a particular tribe the flame of righteousness that we received through grace distinguish us as His children. It gives us a crown that allows us to sit at the King's table and partake in the King's feast. This flame, much like a signet ring, a crown, or even a tattoo shows belonging and full inheritance of the Kingdom of God. It gives us God Himself to be our eternal father in full intimacy and complete joy. This mark, grants us identification to something greater than the most elite and exclusive of charters. It's the all access pass to the greatest party in the universe and the only way in is through affiliation with the God who came down as Jesus to die for us so that we may be raised with Him for eternity future.
2. A lamp unto our feet
"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." Psalm 119:105
The thing that so many of us have a hard time with is the idea that a relationship with God is daily, going moment by moment. It isn't yearly, monthly, or even weekly, but daily because we are faced with the constant distortion of our flesh to become self-sufficient and the regular distractions by the enemy to focus on things apart from that which is most important, God. In John 1, it says, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." The phenomenal thing is that Jesus is the word. As we have this flame that burns within us, it acts as a lamp unto our feet which gives us guidance and wisdom from the simple decisions to the difficult decisions. From the moral decisions to the amoral decisions everything is cast a light, and as we allow that light to shine, the decisions often times becomes clear. Only when we have desires that a greater to us than God does the lamp become dim and the decisions become hazy, only then, do we fall into sin and destruction.
God desires to lead us to walk in the light, away from darkness. God desires for us not to stumble, trip, or fall on our face as to embarrass ourselves. He desires no reason for us to approach Him with shame upon judgement day.
3. Our Purification
My heart breaks every time someone calls them self a Christian and lights up a cigarette or talks about how they went to a bar or a club the weekend before. I don't think that they are sins per se, but they are terrible witnesses to other people.
The thing is, this Holy Flame that burns is not like a wildfire that destroys, but like a refiner's fire that purifies. It takes away all toxins and all impurities so that what remains is left more precious than what was.
17 You have wearied the LORD with your words.
“How have we wearied him?” you ask.
By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?”
1 “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.
God makes us pure. This flame that burns inevitably leads to radical change. Going to church, serving people, and giving a lot of money does not save you. What saves is that we have the righteousness of Christ counted as our own and as we continue to live with the light, the light will bring about a change in us that makes us unrecognizable to the world, different from the world, and give hope to the world.
4. Burns out the enemy's efforts
As the flame purifies us, it destroys the enemy's attempts to take us away from God. To use, its a focused flame, to the enemy, its destruction is like the wildfire. The righteousness of God gives authority to those who possess it and the flame spreads like wildfire as it grows. It gives to all men and women who possess it the ability to call upon the name and power of God to destroy the works of the enemy and bring forth the works of God. This power given to us is not so that we may be glorified, but so that people may be able to know God in this lifetime and the next. The power of God is given to us as if we are superheroes with supernatural abilities to combat the powers and principalities that are of the flesh and the spiritual realms.
The Holy Flame that burns is Christ in us. It is not in myself, but in Christ whom I can find eternal security and infinite peace. It is Christ who offers a joy that goes beyond all the desires of this world.
1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet,
until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,
and her salvation as a burning torch.
2 The nations shall see your righteousness,
and all the kings your glory,
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the LORD will give.
3You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
(Post dedicated to a dear younger brother of mine J.Y. who posed the question of the meaning of the verse "Let the righteousness of God be a Holy Flame that burns.")