Something we may not understand but we must make sure to understand is that the Gospel is not an option that you just consider as if you are choosing produce. It is a fire. You throw something in it and it will either burn away or be purified. We forget this about the Gospel.
The problem as I see it is that we’ve grown accustomed to so much knowledge and a self-help, positive thinking kind of Christianity, a non-judging Christianity, no condemnation Christianity. Many times, the things I hear in mainstream Christian culture seem more in line with things that modern psychiatrists and counselors say. Don’t get me wrong, most of the time helpful stuff. But sometimes, even if its coming from a Christian perspective, it leans more on the knowledge of this world rather than God.
And one of the negative effects of this kind of Christianity is what you might call “easy-believism,” where the gift of salvation, this Mount Zion that we just looked at is mass produced, packaged nicely and sold at the lowest price. We see this commercialized salvation and the Gospel you can receive through a simple prayer you pray in your heart. Jesus will enter into your life and you’ll be set for eternity so you don’t need to worry any more in this life. You may not take your faith this way but this is something that happens to many of us to a certain degree.
Maybe we don’t believe in this extreme of a way but we may sometimes have an unhealthy tendency to lean on the grace and acceptance part of the Gospel without a care about the weight of our sins and unworthiness. The writer of Hebrews is responding without question that this is not the Gospel. The Gospel is a fire.
Leave yourself with someone for a few minutes with no agenda and you’ll find yourself talking about the things that are most important to you and the things that you believe in. You only need to reflect upon your life to know what that is. You will know by how you spend your time and by answering why you do what you do. You will also be able to answer that question most clearly when you are put through a fire because a fire will tell you what is true, what is real.
23 Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the Lord your God has forbidden you. 24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.Deuteronomy 4:24
The Fire of Judgment
First of all, this consuming fire is a fire of judgment. This jealousy of God judges the devotion of our hearts. Those who reject Christ will not escape this fire of judgment. Those who reject God’s Word will not escape His consuming fire. And this jealousy is not a jealousy of us. It is a jealousy for us. Because God is love and God is also the most excellent and most worthy, it is the most loving thing for God to do to seek our complete devotion to himself.
The writer of Hebrews refers before this passage to Mount Sinai where the earth trembled and shook in the presence of God that fell upon it by fire. And now in this passage, we see another kind of trembling, the removal of things that are shaken, that is, things that have been made, in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.
What remains after this second shaking? Only the things that cannot be shaken. Only the things that are eternal. There is nothing of permanence except our faith and salvation. This shaking is not merely talking about
physically temporary things verses eternal things. This is talking about our faith, what we believe in. When faith is tested, when it is shaken, we see what is true peace and what is not. We see what is real faith and what is not. This is what happens when we stand on Mount Zion.
The Refining Fire
Two things that happen when you stand on Mount Zion. One is this shaking that we read about where only the things that cannot be shaken remain. The other is this consuming fire that we see describing the extent of God’s desire for our entire selves. What does it mean that nothing that can be shaken will remain? It means, only true faith can stand on Mount Zion.
What do I mean by true faith? It’s not about how devoted you are or how knowledgeable you are. True faith simply rests upon the finished work of Jesus Christ. If your faith is not true, if you’ve been trying to perform and earn you way to win God’s favor, you will come to the gate of Mount Zion and you’ll be crushed by the weight of Mount Sinai.
And what about this consuming fire? It is the fire of the presence of God that consecrates this mountain of promise and peace. It is a fire that burns away everything that is not holy. If we did not have faith in Jesus, we would just entirely burn away.
What does it mean for only true faith to stand on Mount Zion? What does it mean for everything to be consumed by God’s Holy Fire? If we are to stand on Mount Zion, it means that there is no such thing as a radical Christian there. It means that there is nothing left to burn away, nothing left to distract us. Christians on Mount Zion have shaken off everything that can be shaken and have been engulfed by the consuming fire of God.
We will experience peace and power when we stand on Mount Zion. Faith will be relevant to every aspect of our lives and peace will have the power to withstand any storms of this life. The reason why our faith becomes relevant and has power is because only the unshakable remains and everything that is not of God has been burned away.
How do I know I am standing on Mount Zion? Or in other words, how do I know my faith is real? How do I obtain this peace that has power? You need to receive the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Fire of the Holy Spirit
Before Jesus sends out his disciples to be his witnesses, he tells his disciples that without the power of the Holy Spirit they could do nothing.
And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.Luke 24:49
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”Acts 1:4-5
Maybe you’ve prayed for the power of the Holy Spirit many times but there hasn’t been much to show for it. Maybe you experienced the Holy Spirit before but it’s been a long time ago. Have you ever witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit? If so, what warrants us to stop praying and stop believing just because we don’t see Him move for a season?
How do we know we stand on Mount Zion? We will know when we have the peace of salvation given through Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised. And it was not simply an inner peace or power, but the power of the Holy Spirit was evident outwardly.
Why do we fall to anxiety and fear so easily? Why is our faith so weak? It is because we are not standing on Mount Zion. Maybe you’re standing outside today. But you have not allowed God to shake everything that can be shaken in your life. You have not allowed God’s consuming fire to engulf your life. And because of that, you do not live in the power of the Holy Spirit. There could be other reasons as well. Maybe the reason you are standing outside Mount Zion is because you are unwilling to have what you desire and ask for. Maybe the reason is because you are resisting the conviction of sin in your life. You know that Jesus freed you and broke all the chains but maybe you’ve actually come to like the confines of your prison. Maybe you have great personal ambition and plans that you don’t want thrown out. Or maybe you just don’t believe.
Until we come to Mount Zion, we will hold onto the things that can be shaken and our faith will not be tested and refined in purity and genuineness. Until we come to Mount Zion, our faith will not have relevance or power in our lives and we will not experience God. Come to Mount Zion. See that you do not refuse him who is speaking.
22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.Hebrews 12:22-29