“And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” – Luke 24:32
When I was a young boy, and was in a cantankerous mood, (which was not uncommon) I’d do little things to aggravate my mother. I knew how to press her buttons. I knew what to do or not do to aggravate her. You know: going slow when she was in a hurry or going fast when she was sapped of energy and could only go slow. Disregarding, “Now I’ve told you for the last time!” over and over and over again. Purposeful procrastination to her calls to get ready so we could go somewhere. I usually knew just how far I could push Mom before things got dangerous. There was a telltale comment that marked the end of the line for her patience. Those red flag words were, “You burn me up!” When I heard those words I knew it was time to run for cover. The B29 was overhead, the sky was growing dark with her shadow, and the situation was about to go nuclear. This little boy was about to get bombed with “Little Boy.” (Note: I attribute my speed to running from Mommy around the dining room table. I always thought her attempts to catch me quite funny. Funny how the more I laughed and giggled the redder her face got and the more she’d throw the chairs out of the way. Yes, my speed was learned young. That I lived on I attribute to having never been caught!)
Back in 1972 Elvis Presley produced his last top 100 hit song entitled Burning Love. The song, originally written by Dennis Linde, starts with the words, “Lord Almighty, I feel my temperature rising, higher, higher, it’s burning through my soul. . . .” and has the famous chorus “Just a hunk of, hunk of burning love. Just a hunk of, hunk of burning love.” There have been a lot of secular songs in history that use fire and burning as a metaphor for sexual passions and hedonism.
When a sports team is on a winning streak it’s described as “They’re on fire!” When the fans of a team are especially worked up into a frenzy they are often described as being, “Fired up!” Starting a race car or even an ordinary engined machine of some kind is frequently described as “Fire it up!”
When people are zealous for a political or social cause they are also often described as being, “Fired up!” When employment is terminated the employer says, “You’re fired!” the employee says, “I was fired.”
The 1986 movie Top Gun about the training of fighter pilots described popularized the phrase, “crash and burn,” to described incidents where test pilots crashed and burned their jets.
All of these uses of fire and burning are examples of a metaphor. A metaphor is defined as, “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.”
The metaphor of fire can be used to describe holy things as well as unholy things. There are probably a lot of other ways the metaphor of fire and burning imagery are used. But I’d like to consider how such a metaphor is used in the Bible.
Vance Havner, a past Senate chaplain, once said,
“We are not going to move this world by criticism of it, nor conformity to it, but only by the combustion within it of lives ignited by the Spirit of God.”
He’s right about that. What we need is more burning hearts, hearts aflame for Jesus in the power of the Spirit.
The early church had hearts burning for the Lord and they turned the world upside down for Jesus (i.e. right side up - Acts 17:6). Unfortunately the church today is too often turned upside down by the world. Why is that? It seems the sinful world is more on fire for their unrighteous causes than the church is for her righteous causes. Where are the burning hearted disciples of Jesus today? If the flames of passion for Jesus have gone out in a Christian, is there a way to relight that flame? How can we get aflame for the Lord? How can we be re-fired? What do we do to have our hearts burn for the Lord?
The key to a burning heart is found in Luke’s gospel account where it states: “And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32). This verse is the key to a burning heart. A heart is ignited with a holy flame by getting close to Jesus and listening to Him. Jesus bestows a burning heart to us. The closer we come to Jesus and listen to Him and His word, the brighter and hotter our hearts will burn for Him. Your heart will glow and burn with a holy flame in proportion to how close you are living to Jesus. The closer you get to the fire, the hotter the heat you will feel. You can’t come close to Jesus and not be set to burning for Him. We need a burning heart. This world needs the ministry produced by burning hearts. We need Jesus.
“A smoking flax He will not quench” – If you were a candle would you be a bright flame or about to flame out? Is the fire in your belly more heart-burn than burning for Jesus? If you are on fire for the Lord you need to understand that a flame needs to be maintained. If you feel as though you’re spiritual flame is about to go out you need to understand you can be fired up again.
Jesus is gentle. He is waiting for the smoldering ones to return to Him. In Matthew’s inspired gospel account Isaiah 42:3 is quoted in regards to Jesus which says: “A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench, Till He sends forth justice to victory;” (Matthew 12:20). Jesus doesn’t snuff you out when your flame is weak. When your flame is weak He will help you ignite again.
The Heart of the Bible - Before we discover how to get our heart burning for Jesus, we have to have an understanding of the heart. The word “heart” used in Luke 24:32 is translated from the Greek term kardia. “Heart” can refer to the physical heart but is also used to refer to that part of the human being that is central, the core, the place where “the thoughts or feelings” reside.  The heart is your inner most being; the place where you make decisions that determine your life outcomes.
The Bible tells us that the heart is by nature sinful. “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10). Sin soaks our heart, quenches God’s fire, and makes us unburnable. We are born with a heart that is spiritually limp. The sinful heart is weak like wet cardboard and provides no fuel for any holy fire. Before a heart can be lit on fire for the Lord it has to be treated and prepared and made a furnace capable of holding God’s fire.
We need a new heart from God. The only way the sinful heart can be made into a furnace for God’s flame is to be exchanged for a new one. That old sinful heart needs to be torn out and replaced with a new heart from God. Such a new heart is available only by the grace of God (1 Corinthians 15:10).
The new heart we receive from God comes with the perfect fittings for His fire. The first step to a new heart is that God takes the initiative to give us a new heart. God enlightens our heart and exposes its sinfulness and need of cleansing and redemption (2 Corinthians 4:6; John 16:8-11). God is the One who opens the heart to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior (Acts ; 26:18).
The next step in being fitted with God’s new heart is admitting your present heart is weak and sinful. And as we admit that we trust the gospel truth that Jesus died on the cross to pay the just requirement and penalty for our sin. The only way our sin can be cleaned away is by applying the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7, 9). God’s new heart is then put in place. When we receive forgiveness for our sins from Him based on trusting Jesus and His redemptive work on the cross the new heart is installed. The new heart is lowered into our chest cavity as we believe in our heart that Jesus has risen from the dead and confess with our mouth that He is Lord (Romans 10:9-10).
The Bible says: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26). That new heart is empowered, strengthened and fired by the Lord (Psalm 27:14). This new heart is established by the Lord (1 Thessalonians 3:13). This new heart runs on the love of the Spirit (Romans 5:5). Its high spiritual octane is measured by its total love for God and neighbor (Matthew 22:37). This new heart is governed by Jesus as Lord in life (1 Peter 3:15). This new heart serves God totally (Deuteronomy 26:16). This new heart relies on God’s owner’s manual the Bible (Proverbs 3:5). This new heart filters out the dirt of sin (Psalm 66:18). This new heart responds to the Driver God (Ephesians 6:6). A burning heart is a heart maintained and functioning according to God’s manual the Bible and running on the fuel of the Spirit; love.
The optimum burning heart – When your heart is operating the way God intended it to operate it will be like a stable of horses ready to charge out of the barn and be used by God. Your heart horsepower depends on the degree to which you allow God to work on your engine.
Jeremiah was on fire for God. And God sent him on a mission. God sent him to be a prophet to a people that would not listen to him (Jeremiah ). He needed a well maintained heart for such a task. He did get frustrated at times on that mission. So frustrated did Jeremiah become with his situation that he told the Lord he was going to shut up and not speak anymore. But read what his burning heart taught him: “Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.” But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.” (Jeremiah 20:9). You see? The burning heart fueled by God and His word burns its way out of complacency, discouragement, and despair. The burning heart is a heart on fire for the Lord.
Lukewarm Hearts - But there’s something else we see in the words of Jeremiah. In these words we see the nature of humanity. Like Jeremiah, in our own strength, we think to and often try to repress or limit the flame of God in us. There are many lukewarm, lackadaisical, and limping Christians who Jesus finds repulsive. There are too many Millard and Mazy Milktoast Christians. That is what Jesus says in a personal letter to the church at Laodicea to whom He writes: “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:14-17).
What Jesus wrote to this church is very important because the state of those Laodiceans is found in part and even in whole in many churches today. Jesus is writing to Christians. Jesus identifies Himself as “the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God [i.e. supernatural authority over].” There’s no lukewarmness with Jesus. But that’s not the case with His followers in this church. The Laodiceans are lukewarm; they are neither cold nor hot; they can take Jesus or leave Jesus. This is totally unacceptable to Jesus. He says they should be either cold or hot, but not lukewarm (Revelation -15). Jesus finds lukewarmness repulsive. And in light of the fire of the cross He has good reason for His revulsion. It’s enough to make the Savior “vomit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:16).
What causes lukewarmness in the heart? According to Jesus the problem is being rich in the things of this world instead of the things of God. It’s being preoccupied with worldly wealth and unaware or uninterested in spiritual needs (Rev. 3:17). If you want the fire of Jesus you have to be willing to adopt His priorities and purposes in your life. There really does need to be an exchange from “old man” to “new man” (cf. Romans 6; Ephesians 4; Colossians 3). The Christian today is trying to live a new life in Christ with the old ways and patterns of the sinful carnal man. Nothing will quench God’s fire faster than dousing the flame with the syrup of secularism. Nothing will hinder God’s fire more than dressing in the flame retardant jingly jacket of worldly bells and whistles.
The Remedy - from Lukewarm to Zealous – What’s the solution? What’s the remedy? Jesus counsels these lukewarm believers to remedy their condition buy advising them, “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.” (Revelation 3:18). They need to count the cost and be willing to go through the fires of life that deepen their faith from superficial to substantial. He says get “fire,” from Him; submit to His life lessons. His word is purified in the furnace (Psalm 12:6). There is such a thing as the fires of persecution (Luke 12:49-53). We must be willing to enter the furnace with the word (e.g. 1 Peter 1:6-9). Jesus says to suit up in “white garments” (which speaks of holiness). He says treat the cataracts of your spiritual eyes with His “eye salve.” Wash your eyes with the water of the word. Let the light of God’s word shine through your darkness (Revelation 3:18).
Jesus tells them, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19). Jesus loves the lukewarm believer even though He despises their lukewarmness. Jesus loves us too much to leave us lukewarm. A lukewarm believer may be cool toward Jesus, but Jesus is hot for them. He loves them and that is why He takes the time to try and ignite them out of their complacency and lukewarm condition. Jesus calls us out of a lukewarm condition because He loves us! The medicine for lukewarmness is the love of Jesus.
The word “zealous” in Revelation 3:19, (Greek zelos) refers to a fervent on fire condition of holy jealousy and desire for the things of God. Are you zealous for the things of God, or are the things of God easily crowded out or replaced by other things? What are you really on fire for? If you’re not on fire for Jesus and everything connected with Him, then you need to “repent.” Turn from your diversions which distract you from Jesus and listen for His knock.
With repentance in place Jesus then says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. 21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:20-22). That is a verse we often use to evangelize the lost. But it is in fact a verse aimed at the lukewarm believer! The remedy for a lukewarm heart is opening up and inviting Jesus in. Sweet fellowship with Jesus ignites and stokes the spiritual fire in our heart.
Why not open up your heart right now? If you feel no urgency about the things of the Lord or if they are low on your list of priorities you are lukewarm and in need of a fresh ignition by the Lord. He’s here and He wants to make your heart burn again. Jesus loves you so much and it pains Him and grieves Him to see you in your lukewarm state. The choice is yours.
We need a burning heart - God manifested His presence to Moses in a fiery burning bush (Exodus 3:2). Fire represents the power of God (e.g. the 7th plague of God on Egypt - Exodus 9:24). Fire marks God’s approval (e.g. of the priestly ministry - Leviticus 9:24). Fire is and instrument of God’s wrath (e.g. Sodom and Gomorrah - Genesis 19:24; Matthew 25:41; Hebrews 12:29; 2 Peter 3:10-12). Fire guides through the wilderness (Exodus 13:21-22). Fire transports us to heaven (e.g. Elijah – 2 Kings 2:11). God’s fire is stronger that the fear of death (Song of Solomon 8:6). God’s fire purifies (Isaiah 6:5-7). God’s word is fiery and fire producing (Jeremiah 5:14). God protects us with a “wall of fire” (Zechariah 2:5). Jesus the Messiah is described as a “refiner’s fire” (Malachi 3:2). The Holy Spirit manifested His presence upon the disciples with tongues of fire over their heads (Acts 2:3). We need God’s fire! We need a burning heart.
The Bible also warns of the dangers of living without God’s fire. It speaks of the fires of affliction which come because of sin (Isaiah 43:2). God warns the fire of lust will burn us (Proverbs 6:27-28). The fire of the tongue’s sinful word-sparks can ignite a forest fire of problems (James 3:6). Fire can either purify us or pummel you; your choice.
The steps to a burning heart – A burning heart is one that is filled with the presence, power, approval, purpose, protection, and purity of the Lord. A burning heart is noticeable. A burning heart is tangible. You can’t be on fire and not know it. Sooner or later you’ll feel the burn. You can’t have a burning heart and not know it. If you’re in doubt, you probably don’t have a burning heart. So how can we get a burning heart? Let’s join Jesus and a couple of disciples on the road to Emmaus and observe the steps to a burning heart.
Luke 24:13–35 (NKJV)
13 Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15 So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.
The first step to a burning heart is to be in conversation about Jesus. As we start discussing Jesus He has a way of entering the conversation. And once Jesus is in the conversation we are on the right track toward a burning heart. So open the door of your heart in conversation about Jesus. He just may be in the neighborhood. He just may drop in.
17 And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?” 18 Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?” 19 And He said to them, “What things?”
The second step toward a burning heart is to listen to Jesus and ask questions. Jesus will always enter the home that invites Him in. Jesus introduced Himself into their conversation by asking them a question. Cleopas responded to Jesus with a question of His own. There is a two way conversation going on here. We have to listen to the questions Jesus is asking us and then openly ask Him questions of our own.
Notice also that only one of the two disciples is actually named. Why is that? I think it’s so that we can insert ourselves into this conversation through this unnamed disciple. Are you there with them now? I hope so.
So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. 21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. 22 Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. 23 When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. 24 And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.”
The third step to a burning heart is to lay out before Jesus what you do know. They laid out before Jesus what they did know about the situation. It’s a good idea to lay out on the table the pieces of your life circumstances. Lay everything out before the Lord. Turn it all over to Him. Jesus is a perfect Gentleman. He won’t go where he isn’t invited. He can be trusted. He doesn’t sneakily open the medicine cabinet while using your bathroom. No, He will only work on the pieces you lay out before Him.
I think it’s very interesting and telling that God in Christ had just completed the most stupendously significant magnificent victory over sin and death of all eternity and these disciples weren’t even aware of it! In fact, they were actually down and depressed. Jesus had just sustained an incredible brutalization at the hands of sinful humanity. He had gone to the cross and paid the death penalty for the sins of all humanity for all time and history. He had just demonstrated the incredible love of God eternally. They had even heard of the first witnesses’ report of the empty tomb! But they were filled with doubts and dark thoughts. That’s not uncommon; us human beings are often slow on the pickup.
We may be discouraged and depressed even though God’s victory is right before us. These disciples were missing the most important ingredients. They hadn’t remembered the words of Jesus. They hadn’t taken Jesus at His word. They were overcome by the giants of human depravity seeing themselves as only crickets of Christ (cf. Numbers 14). They were snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory. They just didn’t get it. We often don’t get what God is doing. That’s why we need to bring it all to Jesus.
When we lay out what we know before Jesus He is able to connect the dots for us. The Holy Spirit will open our eyes (cf. John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:9-14). When we give Jesus free reign in our lives He takes the ingredients and uses them to stoke a fire in us. Sometimes we have flammable material but haven’t unwrapped it for use. We may not even be aware that parts of what we have are fuel for His fire in us. Jesus is an Expert fire starter. Let your life be the fuel for His fire.
25 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!
The fourth step toward a burning heart is to be open to the correction of the Lord. You have to be open to Jesus’ correction. There are times when the fires go out because we have misinterpreted what God is doing. That’s what happened to these two disciples. They saw defeat where God had worked His greatest victory! We have to be humble and open to the Lord’s correction. We have to be teachable. We need to be surrendered to Jesus to assess and build our faith. It’s no fun to be called “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the [prophets have spoken!” We may have to eat humble pie. God is opposed to the proud and gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). Taking a humbling rebuke is often a step in receiving a burning heart.
26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
The fifth step is to go to the word of God with Jesus. Jesus didn’t take them to a few isolated verses. Jesus started with Moses and then went to the prophets and expounded verse by verse chapter by chapter book by book. And the focus of His revelation and teaching to them was “concerning Himself.” The fires of the heart are stoked and fueled by what scripture says about Jesus. No fire is as bright as it could be or as pure as it should be unless it is fueled by scripture and scriptures testimony about Jesus. There are no short cuts or alternatives to the word of God. The fires of the hearth of our heart are stoked by Jesus with the word of God!
28 Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. 29 But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them.
The sixth step toward a burning heart is to actively seek fellowship with Jesus. Jesus made like He would go on without them. There was no way they were going to let this Teacher get away from them. They were fired up by Jesus’ teaching of His word. Oh, I can’t imagine how incredible a time with Jesus this must have been; to have Him explain the scriptures personally to them. It’s no wonder they “constrained” (Greek parebiasanto) Jesus to stay with them. They urged and compelled Jesus to the point of prevailing on Him to stay. They actively sought the presence of Jesus. If you want a burning heart you need to actively pursue Jesus. You can’t be lukewarm if you want a burning heart. You can’t have a take it or leave it attitude about God’s fire in your heart. You have to want it. Prevail on Jesus in prayer and compel Him to give you a burning heart. Hold on to Jesus with every fiber of your being and don’t let go until your heart is burning hot.
30 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.
The seventh step toward a burning heart is dwelling with Jesus. They recognized Jesus as they spent time with Him. If you want a burning heart you have to take the time to spend time with Jesus. If you’re in a rush and don’t have time for Jesus you can pretty much forget about stoking the fires of your heart. If you think you can fit Jesus into your schedule and have Him light your fire, forget it. It’s going to take more than a minute devotional to get the fire of God. You have to patiently, calmly spend time in fellowship with Jesus. You have to sit with Jesus and pour over His word as if it were the most important thing in your life. And it should be! What is more important than spending time with Jesus?
It was when these two disciples and Jesus sat down together and broke bread together that the light when on, the spiritual sparks began to fly and their fire was lit. The first disciples were known for their devotion to “breaking bread” together (Acts 2:42). What’s the big deal about breaking bread? When Jesus broke bread it reminded them of the times Jesus had fellowshipped with them. It may have reminded them of past Passover meals shared with Jesus. The Passover was a time of remembrance of God’s delivering His people from the oppression of the world. It was an illustration of “the Lamb of God who take away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). It was a time of worship.
If you want to kindle a fire within, worship with Jesus. Even if you don’t feel like worshipping, take a step of faith and worship with Jesus. There is something about worshipping the Lord that turns up the flame of our heart. I’m not only speaking about singing, though that is a good start. Putting on worship music invites the holy flames of God. But worship Jesus in whatever you are doing. Do whatever you are doing for Jesus; as a love offering to Him. Then feel the fires grow (e.g. Colossians 3:17, 23-24). Enter into and enjoy the presence of Jesus and your heart will soon be enflamed with Him.
32 And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.
The final step toward a burning heart is to tell others about Jesus. Their hearts were burning bright after their encounter with Jesus. But they didn’t sit back and bask in the glow. No, they were burning to tell others of their encounter with Jesus. And when we tell others about Jesus it keeps the fire in our heart hot and glowing. Every word to others about Jesus is another log on the fire of our heart. Don’t settle for secular conversations. Inject some passion for Jesus into your communications. You’ll be amazed how it will fire you up. You’ll be surprised how the fire of Jesus catches on with others.
Are you more a smoldering wick than a flaming heart for Jesus? Go to Jesus. Open up to Him. Invite Him to open His word to you. Stoke the flames with fellowship in the word with Jesus. Take time, make time for Jesus. And then compel Him to light the fire of your heart. Let our rallying cry be “I must BURN WITHIN! BURN WITHIN! BURN WITHIN FOR JESUS!” That’s a determined purpose and request of Jesus He is always happy to fulfill.