The Bottom Line
The Bottom Line
Words of Faith 3-13-18
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ.  John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."  And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.
 But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother's wife, and all the other evil things he had done,  Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.
It is not surprising that the people listening to John thought this might be the Messiah. There were many expectations of what Messiah might be like. A great leader. A prophetic voice. The powerful preaching of John reminded them of the great Old Testament prophets. Could this be him? But John was not the Messiah.
"No, I am the front man, the announcer. I am only here to announce one more powerful, whose thongs I am not worthy to untie." When the holiest man you have ever seen or heard says, "Another is coming that I am not worthy to touch..." that is a big deal!
John pronounced an important message about repentance and baptism. The baptism of repentance was a part of Jewish tradition. Such a baptism signaled a new beginning and greater resolve to walk in accordance with the Law. This sort of repentance is powerful. It clears the way. It breaks up the fallow ground. It loosens the hardness of heart. It makes the path straight. It gets us ready. It prepares us... but it does not EMPOWER us.
Something more was needed. The baptism of repentance does not really CLEANSE us or cause a permanent change. Repentance is a change of mind and behavior, but it does not save us or change our basic sin nature. Our sin nature is still there and plenty active.
So where does the power for genuine, deep, radical change come from? "He will baptize you with the HOLY SPIRIT and with FIRE." Those are not two different baptisms, they describe one. Sometimes people talk about a "baptism of fire" as a special time of suffering. But the Greek is clear that this is a baptism of the Holy Spirit and Fire. They are the same.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire burns away the chaff in our lives and empowers us to live in the power of the Spirit. "His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
What God is looking to do in our lives is more than a jolt of conscience and swearing off a few bad habits. He is looking to burn away that which is not of Him and to empower us as disciples to walk with Him.
With many other words John encouraged the people and preached the Good News to them. John was not afraid to confront sin, no matter the person. John publicly condemned Herod the tetrarch, who was living with Herodias, his sister-in-law. She was his brother Philip's wife, so this was an immoral relationship. It was for this brash boldness that John was thrown in prison and eventually would be put to death.
So what is the point here? Luke wants us to understand that getting to know Jesus is not without some necessary changes. The coming of Jesus is not just a pleasant story for us to think about in our religious circles. Inviting Jesus into our lives will involve this radical surgery. There is no one who is exempt. God is no respecter of religious affiliation or government rank. He looks only for fruit. If there is no fruit, he is coming prune and, if necessary, put an ax to the root.
What should we do? Invite Him to cut out the sin in our lives. Invite Him to baptize us with the Holy Spirit and burn away anything that is not of Him. How will we walk that out in practical ways? Quit our jobs? No. Mostly we will share with others. Don't cheat. Be content. In simple ways we walk out the holiness of God.
Bottom line? It is a good thing to prepare for a visiting politician or dignitary by cleaning the streets, filling in the pot holes, and painting over the blemishes. But if that is all we do in church, we are missing the point. The preparation God wants to do in our lives is radical. Mountains of sin in your life made low, valleys of despair filled in, and radical surgery.
Father God, do Your work in me. Send Your Holy Spirit and do the work of repentance in me. Cleanse me with the fire of Your Holy Spirit. Burn away anything that is in the way of my walk with You. In Jesus' name.