Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28–29—NKJV)

I was reading an article which compares Islam to Christianity. One of the points to the article was that, when just looking at raw numbers of adherents of all “faiths” in the world, the two greatest religions of the world are Islam and Christianity. As I interacted with the article I remembered that authentically born-again Christians are in the minority in Christendom, and those who look to some sort of sacramental dispensing of salvation through the church for their hope of heaven are in the majority. The majority of the adherents to Christianity are therefore not saved for they have rejected the atoning work of Christ alone. As that thought struck home, I had a moment of despair for I thought, “How will dead Christianity prevail in this sin-darkened world, especially when the adherents of Islam seem to be so dedicated to their religion to the exclusion of all others, and because their “faith” is a comparatively small component of the governmental laws which they would impose on all others.”

My despairing thought arose from the biblical teaching that only authentically redeemed people are on their way to heaven and are the true Christians. The rest of the “Christians” may be Christianized, but they are spiritually lifeless and are not saved, especially if they reject the doctrines of sin, judgment and salvation by grace alone. For example, you may hear some Christianized people say something like this, “I do not believe there is a hell; God is too good for that.” Or “Everyone will get to heaven; there are many roads which lead to God.” Please allow me to ask, “If there is no punishment for sin, then why did Jesus have to die; and if all are going to heaven, then why did God send His Son and say that He is the way?”

Then I remembered another principle of the Scriptures: the Bible is the living Word of God, and when the Living God transforms the soul by His Spirit, an authentic miracle happens—a previously unregenerate soul is made alive through new birth. This unique miracle does not happen to the Christianized, nor to the Muslim. The Christianized and the Muslim are equally dead in trespasses and sins and are in need of repentance and salvation through the shed blood of the spotless Lamb of God. Only the born-again Christian is placed into the family of God.

This is the gist of the teaching in Hebrews 12. If you are a Christian, not just Christianized, then you will see evidences of being disciplined by God, because we all know that children are disciplined by their respective fathers. That is one of the cardinal roles of fatherhood. Anyone who has not been born again into God’s family from Satan’s, has no claim on His fatherly ministrations. To the believer there is a dynamic, an intimacy, and a liveliness to his relationship with God that no one else knows nor can experience, whether he be Christianized or Muslim.

The text states that God is a consuming fire. The author is quoting Deuteronomy 4:24, “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” We are not talking a nice fire to provide warmth and a cheery glow to a cool night, nor a fire that we have harnessed for some task to be completed (like the internal combustion engine). God is a consuming fire. The picture is of a devouring fire that rages so long as there is fuel to keep it going. Hebrews 10:26–27 states of the unregenerate, “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.” Verses 30 and 31 read, “For we know Him who said ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.”

The moment of death for both the “Christianized” and for the Muslim will be a horrible awakening in the fires of hell. God’s judgment will rage for their rejection of Jesus’ sacrificial death for sin. But remember—those of you who are born-again—Hebrews 12:28–29, which states the fact that God is a consuming fire, is written to you who are in His family by new birth! He has been, and still is today, a consuming fire, served by the Seraphim (the burning angels). Do not lose sight of the fact that when you harbor unconfessed and willful sin in your life, God is obligated, as any good father is, to discipline His child, and the fiery chastening of God will envelope you so long as there remains any offensive fuel of disobedience in your heart.

Are you certain that you are a Christian and not just Christianized? Are you diligent to speak the Gospel into the darkness of human hearts? Are you careful to remove those things from you that will bring the chastening hand of God upon your life? Trust and obey.