The Fellowship of the Burning Heart
I am beginning to see that there are really only two broad camps in the Christian world. I am being very simplistic and general here, but at the end of the day it seems there are basically just two sorts of believers. On the one hand there are those who are broken before God, tender in heart, meek in Spirit, and desirous of only God’s best.
On the other hand there are all the rest. As I said, this is far too simplistic and broad of an assessment. But it rings true. There are those who simply want the best that Christ has to offer, and they are willing to pay any price, do anything, and make any sacrifice.
They are a rare breed, and are often denounced, misunderstood, or mocked by other believers. But it is to such people that my heart yearns, and I love being with such people. I feel an instant oneness and identification with such people, and I love just being with them and seeing Jesus in them.
Of course as always one must be very wary of spiritual pride here. But those who most love God are those who are the least prideful. They are the ones who are the most humble, most often on their knees, and most broken before their Lord.
One can never be proud for long when one lingers in the presence of the nail-pierced Saviour. Indeed, one can only cry ‘Lord, I am undone – I am not worthy to stand in your presence’. One sees the need to get on one’s face before God and repent, and cry out for his mercy. Whenever we encounter God or get his heartbeat, the first response is being aware of our own sinfulness and overwhelming need.
When Isaiah saw the Lord he could only say, “Woe is me, I am ruined, for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips” (Is. 6:5). That is always the response we find in Scripture when people encounter the living God. So a place of brokenness, humility and repentance is always our first duty. That is the only place we should seek to find ourselves in.
Jesus said, ‘blessed are those who recognise their spiritual need’ (Matt. 5:3). Only those who see how unworthy and unholy they are before a righteous God are the ones He is prepared to deal with. “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). We all so desperately need to learn that lesson.
I have also come to realise that one can state all this as a sort of spiritual truism: the real followers of Christ as opposed to the Pharisees can be identified in this manner: If the Word of God is read or preached, and one’s reaction is, “Yes, that is so true – of my neighbour (or friend, or spouse, or whoever),” that is a Pharisee.
But if the Word of God is read or preached, and one’s reaction is, “Yes, that is so true – that is me, woe is me. Lord I repent, Lord I ask for your forgiveness, Lord I need you more than ever,” that is a true follower of Jesus. Such believers are in a continual state of brokenness, openness, humility, and dependency. Any Word preached or read will be met with conviction and acceptance.
My old pastor back in the US used to warn about “leaning on the arm of flesh” – loosely following Jeremiah 17:5. His point was those who are fleshly, carnal, or out of step with the Spirit will completely miss what God is trying to do. While everyone else is being blessed and encouraged in the Lord, this person is missing out, and in fact will want to argue, debate and make a big stink of things.
This has happened to me quite often. As I posted elsewhere earlier today: ‘Has anyone else experienced the demoralisation and discouragement that comes when you seek with the best of intentions to encourage others in Christ, only to get attacked by other believers? I can see why so many believers just give up, or at least sit down and shut up. If you never speak out, you never have to worry about being shot down in flames.’
When you sincerely and earnestly seek to present the lovely Saviour to others, but fellow believers simply don’t get it, but instead take offence and get reactionary and divisive, you can be sure they are leaning on the arm of flesh. They are not walking in step with the Spirit.
But that is what I crave: to always be in tune with God’s Spirit. If that is also your desire, then my advice to you is this: seek to surround yourselves with those whose heart is on fire for Jesus. Keep in fellowship with those who are totally sold out to Jesus.
In Jeremiah 20:9 we read these words, “His word burns in my heart like a fire”. That is the person who has really been with God. We should seek out those who have a deep and abiding walk with God. Learn from them and soak up what Jesus is doing in and through their lives.
Back in 1947 Dr. Henrietta Mears formed a group of dedicated disciples of Christ known as the “Fellowship of the Burning Heart”. Mears was a famous Bible teacher, and Christian educationalist. She established one of the largest Sunday Schools in the world and founded a Christian publishing company. She was radically committed to knowing Christ and making him known.
Here is how one description of this goes: “Henrietta Mears was completely sold out to what she called ‘the Cause of Christ.’ By ‘the Cause of Christ’ she meant winning the world to Christ and establishing Christianity as the guiding force in society through evangelization of the world. Mears established the Fellowship of the Burning Heart, wherein she encouraged her students to be willing to die for ‘the Cause of Christ.’ She laid her hands on them to receive her mantle. Thus they received within themselves a ‘burning heart’.”
Some of the others in this group went on to become household names in evangelical circles. These included Bill Bright, who established Campus Crusade for Christ; Richard C. Halverson, Senate Chaplain; J. Edwin Orr, historian of revival; and world-renowned evangelist, Billy Graham.
Another one who spoke about this often was A.W. Tozer. In one of his writings he said this: “I am looking for the fellowship of the burning heart. I claim the Methodist and the Baptist as mine and I claim everybody that loves Jesus Christ as mine; but I am looking for the fellowship of the burning heart. Men and women of all generations and everywhere that love the savior until ‘adoration’ has become the new word and they do not have to be entertained or amused. This Christ was everything. He was their all in all… I am looking for men and women who are lost in worship, those who love God until he is the sweetheart of the soul.”
I am with Tozer here; I long to be with people who have been with Jesus. I don’t want to settle for the ordinary, for the usual, or for the commonplace. I want always to be challenged and inspired by those who know Jesus above all else.
Every single person who claims Christ as Lord and King should strive to become what we read concerning Peter and John: “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
I want so very much to be part of the Fellowship of the Burning Heart. Do you?