The Fire of Desire (2021)
Robert Wurtz II
By which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Peter 1:4 NKJV)
One of the reasons why it is so important to emphasize the Biblical meaning of the John 3:3 style born again experience is that vital changes occur in the person born again. Jesus said unless a person is born again, they cannot see the Kingdom of God. Sometimes the John 3:3 experience is called being “born from above.” The language is perfect for describing the profound change because it entails the idea of a new father and a new genealogy (if you will). From our first birth, we trace our humanity and spiritual identity back to Adam. When we are born again (born from above), we trace our humanity and spiritual identity back to Jesus Christ, the last Adam. By first birth, we are of the generations of Adam, the first man. The born again are of the generation of Jesus Christ, the second man.
God’s method to remove a person from Adam and place them in Jesus Christ is Holy Spirit baptism. This is the One Baptism we read about in Ephesians 4:5 that all other baptisms point to (so to speak). Paul explains to the Corinthians, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13 NKJV) This is how a person is placed IN Christ. Receiving the Holy Spirit places us IN the Body of Christ, impacting our lives with the same force for godliness that our first birth in Adam impacted us for ungodliness. In times past, we were empowered and influenced by the spirit of disobedience, but now God works in us both to will and do His good pleasure (compare Eph. 2:2 and Phil. 2:13).
Crucified With Christ
When we are IN Christ by Spirit baptism, we share in Christ’s history of victory over sin and Satan in the same way that we formerly shared in Adam’s slavery to sin and Satan. We share in all that He accomplished on the cross. Christ, in our place, died to sin, and we share that experience. At death, all contracts are off, and all ties that bind are broken. A slave is free from their master at death. A wife is free from her husband at death, etc. Christ’s victory over sin and death to sin frees those who are IN Him from the chains that once held them bound. In Paul’s words, I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NKJV)
Those who have been baptized into Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24 NKJV) This matter of crucified with Christ is both an initial crisis event and a continual process. Moreover, there are two important Greek words here explaining a radical change of impulse compared to before. Pathema is translated as passions (good or bad), and epithumia is translated as lust or strong desire (good or bad). Generally speaking, when we are born again by the Spirit, we switch from evil passions and desires to good passions and desires because we switch from living and walking “in the flesh” to living and walking “in the Spirit.”
A Burning Desire
Lust is sometimes described as a desire that seeks to control you. It is beyond this entry’s scope to explore the point, but passions and desires in the scriptures are often described in terms of “burning” for something. I will take this point for granted going forward. Burning implies fire. You will recall that fire is one of the symbols used to describe the Holy Spirit. The same can be said for people who “burn in their lusts” for sin. They are being empowered, directed, and driven by the spirit of this age (Eph. 2:1-3). The carnal-minded in James 4:3 pray for things that if God answered their prayer and gave them their desires — they would consume the things upon their lusts. These are but a few examples of a burning desire for evil.
In Luke 22:15, Jesus tells the disciples, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer”(Luke 22:15 NKJV). Luke’s translation uses epithumia as a Hebraism that doubled-up words for strong emphasis (epithumiaœi epethumeœsa). Jesus expresses a strong desire to eat the Passover with the disciples before He goes to the cross. He had a lot to say during that event. In fact, some five chapters in John’s Gospel deal with that Passover. Paul expresses in Philippians 1:23 a strong desire to “depart and be with Christ” and in 1 Thess 2:17 & 3:6, Romans 1:11, and 2 Timothy 1:4 (among other places) a strong desire to be with the saints and see them face to face. Peter speaks of “desiring” the milk of the word that we may grow thereby. These are some examples of a burning desire for good.
Feeding the Fire
The question becomes, what do we burn for? In other words, what do we strongly desire? If we made a list of the desires seeking to control us, what would we learn about our true spiritual condition? What desires are we feeding (so to speak). Like feeding a fire–the more we feed our desires, the stronger they become. At the end of the day, there are only two categories for our desires: those of the flesh and the Spirit.
We listed the desires of a Spirit-filled life expressed in Paul’s longing to be with Jesus and the saints or Peter’s desire for God’s word. A Spirit-filled life burns to do God’s will and love and serve Him; however, He moves us to do it. It stands to reason that as we act in obedience, we are stoking this fiery desire.