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Consumed In Love's Fire
"Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave; its flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can floods drown it. If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised" (Song Sol. 8:6-7).
The journey of the heart does not ever reach an ending point. For all of eternity it continues as Love increases and unfolds. We move through the phases and seasons of God's embrace, the dance of intimacy, until we finally see His face. And then for all the ages to come, Love will unfold and unfold in the abundance of its full extent. Our lives on the earth are but the womb of the life to come, and only then is our real destiny realized in its glory. Yet even in this life, there is a certain fullness offered to the human heart by God, and it is that wealth in its entirety that we are after. My question to the Lord has been about what it looks like when a heart comes to the place of total possession by God in this womb of the present age. What does it look like when a soul is utterly owned by God? When God created the earth and set man upon it, knowing that he would live a life of 70 to 80 years at most and then forever in eternity with Him, what was the highest desire found in the heart of God for the soul of that man? What does a heart on the earth aflame with the love of God look like in full blaze? When God awakens desire in our hearts and then takes us on a journey of holy desire for all of our days, what is the portrait of our final breaths? We know that for every heart this picture varies. The beautiful artwork of God is manifested in so many diverse displays and seen differently in every individual union between God and each heart. And though every representation will have its own tone and quality, I believe there are some general considerations to be known and comprehended about what this place of Love's maturity in this life looks like.
I believe that the all-embracing portrait of the one given fully to God is recognized by the complete burning up of that person with Love's ardent flame. It is the sealing of God's fiery love upon his heart (Song Sol. 8:6). This is where He is bringing each one - into the full consumption of His burning affection. We are seared by that which remains for all eternity. We are caught up, taken captive and gloriously swept into this eternal fire of divine devotion. No longer our own, we belong to Another. We are hidden with Christ only to be revealed when He is revealed. The fire of Love has taken us willingly and eagerly captive, and we have made our home in its eternal burnings. No longer is any sacrifice too great or any reward held in higher importance than the reward of the love of Christ. Without a thought, we would give for Love all the wealth of our house and all our possessions, utterly despising any recognition of our sacrifice (Song Sol. 8:7). As Paul declared, "Yet indeed I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ." (Phil. 3:8). This is where the Lord is taking each heart who has offered his life to this holy pursuit. And oh, that God would give us the immeasurable grace to live long in this place before we see Him face to face! Oh, that we would live as men and women of whom the world was not worthy because of the utter devotion that defines our lives!
This place of mature Love is also the point of no return. When we are so gripped and possessed by Love's passion, we have crossed over into the place where we could never again return to what previously gave us pleasure outside of Him. Peter had arrived at this place when Jesus asked him if he wished to leave Him due to His heavy teaching. He said to Jesus, "'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life'" (Jn. 6:68). The truth is that we have left behind our former ways. We have come to the place where we have nothing to return to, for we have long ago made Jesus the one Reward of our hearts and lives. We cry out with the psalmist, "Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none on the earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Ps. 73:25-26).
He is bringing us into this wholeheartedness and nothing less. To be consumed by His love is to be unified in heart, mind, soul and strength. Within this flaming chamber, our lives are utterly consumed by the one thing we have desired. We are not divided from Him in this place. To find a heart so captured is to also find the Lord Jesus for nothing separates us from His love. We are bound by Love, and it holds so fierce a grip on us that even death and the grave and all the many waters will not break loose the grasp (Song Sol. 8:6-7). Oh, how we need this fire of God to possess our souls! Jesus said, "'I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!'" (Lk. 12:49). The God-Man with fire in His eyes gazes upon each of our hearts with desire to bring us into this baptism of fire (Lk. 3:16). He wills to consume each voluntary heart with His ardent affection and to bring forth from humanity living flames of love.
The Sting of the Fire
We are afraid to be wholehearted and for obvious reasons. The fear of the fire is due to the truth that God is nothing short of all consuming. He is not a God of fractions. There is no middle ground within the fullness of Love. There is no grey area to linger in within wholeheartedness. We fear total abandonment because we fear Him. And it is right that we should fear Him, for the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 1:7). Yet let us not allow this fear of the Lord to drive us from Him but to compel us to Him. Would I not rather dwell in the center of the Almighty Whirlwind than peer from outer limits at its unlimited power? And would it not be better to dwell with Everlasting Burnings (Is. 33:14) than to stand far from Him and resist His consuming nature? Is it not preferable to voluntarily plunge myself into the depths of Love's Ocean than to stand on the shore as if I had the ability to avoid its imminent engulfing? I would rather live within this Ocean of incomprehensible affection and dwell with Everlasting Burnings than live at a distance and take the risk of my distance giving way to offense toward Him. Surely, this weighty choice is my security. For though I cannot know all that I say, "Yes," to, I know I say, "Yes," to Love. And I know that wherever He may lead me, I am forever kept in Love's embrace. I know that intimacy is my protection and the seal upon my heart (Song Sol. 8:6).
The sting of the fire is also found in our unlikeness to Him. "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" (Is. 33:14). It is the one who walks righteously. The pure in heart shall see Him. And it is when we remain within the Refiner's Fire that we are cured of our ailments and even brought into the place of utter health of soul. In order to know and dwell with this Devouring Fire, we must willingly surrender all false understandings of Him. We come as blank pages for Him to write upon. With sincere hearts we cry out, "Write Your name upon my forehead! (Rev. 7:3). Set Your seal upon my heart!" (Song Sol. 8:6). We are driven by the very real ardor of His love, and this love has led us to the place that we could have never reached in our own strength and strivings. Enjoyment has equipped us for this resolute abandonment. We have become lovesick bondservants. Slaves of holy desire. We have surrendered to the living Flame of Love. And surely our eyes shall see the King in His beauty within the glowing brightness of this blaze (Is. 33:15).
Yet another reason for our fear of the fire of the Lord is because this God of ours is so seemingly unsafe. He is dangerous and unpredictable. He plays by no human rules, only His own. Total abandonment to Him is a reckless expedition with an uncertain destination. We have no idea what He will do with us if we surrender all to Him. These are understandable responses but false nonetheless. We are fools to think ourselves safe outside of this flame. Though He is all consuming and though our unlikeness to Him makes us not understand His ways, He is our one and only hiding place. Though He is dangerous in the sense that we do not know where He will lead us, truly the greater danger is to not be lead utterly and entirely by Him. We will not find a "no man's land" in this journey. We either fling ourselves into this highest Flame or lose our very souls to all lesser flames. To be consumed by the Love of God is really our only choice of wisdom.