The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Singing Smack to the Holy Spirit: CONSUMING FIRE by Tim Hughes

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In every area of your relationship with Him, God initiates.  You are never the first one to reach out to Him.  The best you can ever do is to respond positively to Him reaching out to you.  He always leads, you follow.  He initiates, you respond: this is how it works for creatures who are totally dependent on their Creator for all things.

So why is it important to realize that God always initiates in His relationship with you?  For one thing, it keeps you humble and aware of your dependency on Him.  You see, God doesn’t  have to relate to you.  There is no rule that says He has to get personal with you or make you aware of who He is.  Certainly God delights in reaching out to you and inviting you to know Him, but that’s His voluntary choice, and you shouldn’t be taking His choice for granted. 

Humans find it difficult to understand how free choice can really exist if God is in absolute control.  And yet this concept is really easier to understand than it sounds.  Suppose Jesus sets one apple and one orange down on a table in front of you and tells you to choose one.  Is your choice real?  It’s very real.  Jesus isn’t forcing you to choose one fruit over the other.  He’s letting you decide.  But while your choice is real, it’s also limited, because you can only choose between the two fruits Jesus has put on the table.  You can’t select a watermelon or a banana, because those aren’t options that He’s given you.

This fruity dilemma gives us a good example of how things work in your personal relationship with God. Whenever you find yourself desiring more of God, it’s because desiring Him is an option that He’s put on the table.  Desiring more of God is like the orange, and rejecting God is like the apple.  God puts both options in front of you and then tells you to pick one.  Where Christians go astray is when they act like they are the ones who put the fruits on the table.  Now and then you’ll hear some Christian trying to take credit for wanting more of God as if the whole idea originated from within him and God had nothing to do with it.  Well, no, this is never how it works.

When God first created you, you didn’t have any options on your table.  You didn’t have an apple or an orange.  You couldn’t choose between desiring God or rejecting God because He hadn’t even introduced Himself to you yet.  He was still very much involved in your life and taking care of you 24/7, but you were oblivious to His reality because He hadn’t chosen to reveal Himself to you yet.  One day, that changed.  One day, God began to speak to your soul, your soul heard Him, and in that moment, two options suddenly materialized in front of you: to reject God or to pursue Him.  It was God who created those options, not you, so you can’t take credit for either one of them. All you can do is choose between them, but you can never say that you were the one who reached out to God.  No, He came to you first, and you simply responded to His overtures.

In every area of your life, God leads and you follow.  Whenever you think you’re leading Him, you’re just deluding yourself because God will never follow you.  Submission is a soul attitude which is critical to your relationship with God and submission is a follower’s attitude: it’s when you keep yielding to God’s convictions and leading in your life.  As soon as you try to start leading God, you are trying to dominate Him and get Him to submit to you.  That will always get you in a mess because God will not take orders from you.

Now wait—isn’t this supposed to be a post about a worship song?  Yes, it is.  Consuming Fire is a worship song by Tim Hughes in which you are encouraged to plead for God to change the dynamic of His personal relationship with you.  Before you can accurately assess the quality of these lyrics, you must first have some understanding of how your dynamic with God is developed, and that is why we’ve begun by explaining that God always leads in your relationship with Him.

As is typical for Christian songwriters, Hughes doesn’t acknowledge the fact that God is the One who always initiates in His relationships with us.  Instead, Hughes’ lyrics make it sound like it’s entirely our idea to crave more of God, and now we’re pleading for an indifferent God to respond to our desire for Him.  Well, no, this is backwards.  You will never see the day that you want God more than He wants you.  Often it will feel like you’re the more interested party—especially when God is refusing to communicate with you in sensual ways.  But if we try to rely on our senses to guide us in spiritual matters, we’re going to end up in a deluded mess.  The truth is that God always leads in His relationship with you, and whenever you find yourself yearning for more of Him, it’s because He is putting that desire before you and urging you to embrace it.  When you don’t understand this, you end up with the very wrong conclusion that you are pining in vain for a God who simply isn’t interested in you.

Unrequited love is a frequent occurrence in human relationships, but you will never find yourself in a position where you love God more than He loves you.  In your relationship with God, He is the only One who ever has His love rejected.  Your love and desire for Him are always accepted, regardless of what your senses and emotions are telling you.  Why is this? Because you never want God on your own. You only have the option of wanting Him when He puts that option in front of you, and if God is giving you the option of wanting Him, it’s because He already wants you.  See how it works?  Even though there are many souls in this world who feel and believe that they want God more than He wants them, this simply is not true.  We have to live by faith, not by feelings, and we must root our faith in the truths which God teaches us.

So now that we’ve said all of that, let’s get into the lyrics of Consuming Fire.  Before you start singing, the first thing you need to figure out is which of your three Creators the song is addressing.  It’s either Yahweh, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or a combination.  Consuming Fire is specifically addressing the Holy Spirit, and out of all of our Gods, the Holy Spirit gets the least respect in our worship songs.  We seem to find it very difficult to view Him as an actual God and not just as a weather system, breath, or flames.  While Yahweh and Jesus are often credited with doing intelligent activities—like creating and sustaining things—the Holy Spirit is always being told to blow, rain, fan, and flow.  As you might expect, He finds this kind of derogatory language tiresome.

Think about which God you find it easiest to address, and compare the way you talk to that God with how you talk to the other Two.  For example, many Christians will talk quite openly with Jesus in their personal prayers, but they barely give Yahweh and the Holy Spirit the time of day.  For others, everything is “Dear Father,” while Jesus is nothing more than a sign-off.  Well, it’s fine to start by talking to one God, but the reality is that you have Three, and They are all intimately involved in your life.  If you’re being exclusive in who you talk to, ask Them to help you out with that.

The Holy Spirit is not Jesus or Yahweh.  The Holy Spirit is His own magnificent Being who is full of personality and passion.  Like Jesus and Yahweh, the Holy Spirit has an insatiable appetite for worship, but He doesn’t want you just throwing any random garbage in His face.  You need to respect Him enough to ask Him to teach you what kinds of lyrics He does and doesn’t find pleasing.  As it turns out, the lyrics of Consuming Fire simply don’t qualify as an honoring way to speak to the Holy Spirit.  Now let’s learn why.

[Verse 1] There must be more than this; Oh breath of God, come breathe within
There must be more than this; Spirit of God, we wait for You

We start right in with the breath language because we can’t ever seem to move past that time that Jesus breathed on His disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (see John 20:22).  Well, given the fact that you’re not one of Jesus’ disciples who is hunkered down in a locked room trying to hide out from Jewish leaders, it’s really time for you to become receptive to some better imagery for the Holy Spirit.  He is not breath, He is God Almighty.

Now if you want to get the Holy Spirit irritated with you, ask Him to “come.” As an omnipresent Being, the Holy Spirit is already present everywhere at all times.  If you and your friend Tim were standing close enough to have your elbows bump, would you turn to him and say, “Oh, Tim, please come”?  Of course not, yet you’ll find Christian leaders constantly encouraging you to reject the reality of the Holy Spirit’s Presence with you by asking Him to “come.”  Well, no, He isn’t going to “come” because He’s already here.  If you persist in refusing to acknowledge His Presence with you, He’s far more likely to whack you one than to plant some loving kiss on your cheek because you’re being a little brat by refusing to do the work of faith.

The Holy Spirit is an incredibly patient Being, but He also knows you inside and out and you’re never going to get away with feigning ignorance with Him.  He doesn’t find it cute when you park your brains at the door and pretend that He’s never spoken to you a day in your life just because some fool on the stage wants to sing a song in which we all corporately pretend that the Holy Spirit has ditched us.  “Spirit of God, we wait for You,” this song says.  Wait for what?

Fill us anew, we pray; Fill us anew, we pray

What does this mean?  What exactly are you asking the Holy Spirit to do?  You’re not an empty bucket and He’s not a hose, so what’s with this “fill us anew” language?  He’s already with you, and if you would stop being a lazy sack and start exercising your faith, you’d realize this.  The Holy Spirit is like a Coach who is all pep and encouragement as long as He sees that you’re trying.  He doesn’t care if you’re lifting one pound or a hundred—He wants to see you applying yourself by embracing the truths He has told you.  But when you just sit there in a pout and say, “I don’t want to have to work today, so just give me a massage,” He’s not going to accommodate you.  He knows the difference between legitimate burnout and bratty resistance and He responds to these two scenarios very differently.  Once He has informed you about His omnipresent Nature, it is simply not okay for you to sing a song in which you act like He’s not with you.  And when you then start asking the Holy Spirit to  perform a bunch of entertaining theatrics in order to “prove” the truth of what He’s already told you, well, you’re just moving onto the wrong side of His patience.  He’s not your dog.  He doesn’t perform tricks at your command.

[Chorus] Consuming fire, fan into flame; A passion for Your Name
Spirit of God, would You fall in this place?
Lord have Your way, Lord have Your way with us

These lyrics might sound good at first glance, but they’re really rather snarky.  The Holy Spirit wants us to live by faith, not feelings.  He wants us to submit to His Authority and believe the things that He tells us.  Well, in Verse 1, we sang “Spirit of God, we wait for You” as if the Holy Spirit got on the wrong bus and is now on the other side of town.  In the chorus we ask Him to “fall in this place”—language which flatly rejects the fact that He is already with us.  Then, after speaking so disrespectfully to Him, we actually have the cheek to say “Lord, have Your way with us.”  Really?  If we’re so into God having His way with us, why are we refusing to acknowledge His Presence with us?  Why are we refusing to exercise faith?  Our pretense of submission is not fooling the Holy Spirit.  Though we’re singing for Him to have His way with us, we really want to have our way with Him, which is why we’re now going to nag Him to put on a grand, theatrical show for us to enjoy.

[Verse 2] Come like a rushing wind; Clothe us with power from on high
Now set the captives free; Leave us abandoned to Your praise
Lord let Your glory fall; Oh Lord let Your glory fall

Ah, yes, now we’re getting more honest.  Exciting theatrics and a download of Divine power—that’s really what we’re after.  There’s no love for the Holy Spirit being expressed in these lyrics—we just want to get our greedy mitts on His power.  When we ask Him to “clothe us with power,” we’re really asking Him to give us control over how His power will be wielded.  And then notice how bossy our language gets: “Now set the captives free.”  What captives?  We’re talking to God Almighty, not some field commander who was taking a nap when some of the men in his unit were captured by the enemy.  Whenever Christians refer to captives, they’re usually alluding to souls who are in “bondage” to demons—an utterly absurd notion that is once again a rejection of truth (see Spiritual Bondage: Exposing the Scam).  The Holy Spirit is a Supreme Authority, and as such, nothing occurs in this world that He doesn’t personally approve of.  So, no, there are no “captives” because there are no other authorities who can best the Holy Spirit.  If anyone is pinned down by demons at the moment, it’s because the Holy Spirit has intentionally given demons access to that soul.  And since He could flick those demons off at any time, that soul is really His captive, and obviously He wants them to be (see The Spiritual Benefits of Being Trampled by Demons).  You see, the problem with you telling God who to free is that you’re showing no respect for His will.  People don’t just get into unpleasant situations because the Holy Spirit dozed off on the job.  He is not some sloppy Ruler who keeps dropping balls, nor is He some Oaf who demons can outsmart.  So when you’re singing to God, you really need to clean up your language and choose words that reflect respect for His superior wisdom and absolute control.  The Holy Spirit has reasons for what He does.  Since you don’t know what those reasons are, you really shouldn’t be telling Him to free captives.

“Leave us abandoned to Your praise.”  This awkward phrasing is Hughes’ way of saying, “God, get us totally high on praising You.”  But again this rings as totally insincere when it comes sandwiched between two other lyrics which are so condescending.  First you tell the Holy Spirit to “set the captives free” like you’re telling Him to fix some mistake, then you start back in with this annoying whining for Him to let His glory fall.  What does that even mean?  Are you expecting flames to suddenly fall down from the rafters?  Has it occurred to you that such flames might be scorching hot and able to sear your sensitive tissues?  The Holy Spirit doesn’t exist to put on entertaining light shows for you.

[Chorus] Consuming fire, fan into flame; A passion for Your Name
Spirit of God, would You fall in this place?
Lord have Your way, Lord have Your way with us

Oh, there must be more; There must be more;
There must be more; There must be more

Really?  You repeat yourself four times?  Do you think the Holy Spirit is hard of hearing?  And after making it quite clear that all you really want is a bunch of meaningless theatrics, your discontented huffing that “there must be more” comes across as quite snarky indeed.  According to this song, all you want is an adrenaline rush, and since you’re between highs, you’re having a bratty little fit in which you’re demanding that the Holy Spirit start another show for you.  Well, why should He?

Consuming fire, fan into flame; A passion for Your Name
Spirit of God, would You fall in this place?
Lord have Your way, Lord have Your way with us

Stir it up in our hearts Lord, stir it up in our hearts Lord
Stir it up in our hearts, passion for Your Name (x3)

Fan into flame; Passion for Your Name
Lord have Your way; Fan into flame; Passion for Your Name

Wow, what a bomb.  This “stir it up” language is another reference to you wanting the Holy Spirit to work your earthsuit into some excited emotional lather.  Well, no, what He’s going to do is tell you to turn your focus onto the truths He’s already taught you and stop relying on your feelings and pulse rate to assess His proximity to you.

There is simply no way to justify asking God to fall on us. It’s twerpy.  He’s not rain.  He’s not a wave.  He’s not a waterfall.  He’s not going to fall on you or around you because your motivation for asking Him to is garbage.  Sure, we all enjoy feeling God’s Presence close to us, and the Holy Spirit really enjoys giving us such experiences—but not when we’re being brats and refusing to even acknowledge the fact that He is already with us.

As we said earlier, Christian songwriters are at their worst when they’re penning lyrics to the Holy Spirit.  There’s something about addressing that third magnificent God that makes us forget what reverence is and soon we’re ordering Him to put on circus acts for us without any fear of riling up His wrath against us.  Well, during the end times, we’re going to finally see the Holy Spirit “falling afresh” in many churches, and the fire that engulfs those sanctuaries will indeed be consuming—so much so that everyone inside will be burnt to a crisp.  When you read about such events in the news, you need to remember where your loyalties are supposed to lie.  After centuries of Christians singing smack to the Holy Spirit, we can hardly cry if He starts torching us for real.  Considering that we humans can’t even handle walking on the molten surface of the sun, it’s more than a little ridiculous for us to think we can really handle the actual glory of God falling down onto our heads.  The sooner we stop talking like such idiots, the better.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you improve the way that you speak to Him and He will.

FURTHER READING:
Offensive Worship Songs: LORD, LET YOUR GLORY FALL by Matt Redman
Offensive Worship Songs: Days of Elijah
Offensive Worship Songs: GOD’S NOT DEAD by the Newsboys
Confession Worship Songs: The Heart of Worship

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