MATTHEW 3:11-12: “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” NASB
OBSERVATION: What is the most memorable gift you ever received for Christmas? I think we have all forgotten most of the gifts we have received over the years. Yet, I bet there is one gift that stands out in your memory that you will never forget!
Growing up, and not to brag, Santa visited the Zehnder house before any others. In fact, since Santa came so early to our house, we would open our gifts on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas morning. My grandparents, Nanny and Poppy, would load us into their van and we would drive around the neighborhood to look at all the lights. And, just like magic, when we arrived back home – Santa had arrived, left all our presents, and headed out to deliver gifts to all the rest of the houses!
It was great to be a Zehnder!
My wish that year was for a bike with speeds. Many of my friends had a speed changing bike but I was still trying to compete with a single speed Schwinn. When we arrived from our tour of Christmas lights I scanned the wrapped presents under the tree. To my disappointment there was nothing that resembled or even came close to being a bike. We opened our gifts and I received a lot of nice things – but not the bike with speeds.
I hid my disappointment and tried to feign a smile.
Then my Dad asked me to go next door and borrow something from our neighbors. I knocked on the door and Mr. Parker answered it trying to hide a grin that seemed to be ready to explode from his face. He said – “There is something strange here. Come on in and see it!” When I walked into the living room I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a Schwinn 5-speed bike. I thought, wow, one of his girls really got lucky. Then Mr. Parker said, “I think this was delivered to the wrong house. It has a note on it.”
When he looked at the note it read – “For Kirk.”
Santa didn’t forget my bike with speeds after all. He simply delivered it to the wrong house!
I will never forget that bike. It reminds me of a simpler time when the wonder of Christmas was still alive in the heart of a child. Now, as an adult I find that there are not many gifts that I remember over the years. Yet, when I think of the gift of Jesus, and when I read the story of His birth and the beginning of His ministry here on earth, I am reminded of a very important and unusual gift that has changed my life.
It is the Gift of Fire!
Jesus did not simply come to die for our sins, grant the gift of eternal life to those who believe, ascend into heaven, and then let us struggle through life until we died and entered eternity. Jesus did come to open the way to eternal life. Yet, Jesus also came to baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire so that we can reach our full potential in this life!
The abundant life that Jesus promised us is only realized when we are baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire!
Most of us are familiar with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as we recall the outpouring of the Spirit in the book of Acts. In the upper room the 120 that were gathered were filled with the Holy Spirit and there was the appearance of tongues of fire upon their heads. We don’t really think about this fire much. Yet, John the Baptist made an important emphasis about both the Spirit and fire.
- “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
In John’s words he looked forward to the final judgment of fire that the Messiah would bring when He set up His Kingdom. This is an important element of the fire that is spoken about in the Bible. Yet, there is a role of fire in the life of a believer. It is not always what we expect. Yet, it is crucial to our life in Christ, our victory over this world, and our spiritual growth and development. The Holy Spirit comes both to empower our lives and to purify our lives.
It is the Fire of God working in us that purifies us!
- “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire, and like launderer’s soap. And He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old, and as in former years.” Malachi 3:2-4 NASB
The Gift of Fire for the believer is not the fire of judgment. It is the fire of purification. It is God’s work of sanctification in our lives. It is wrought as we endure the fiery trials of life through the power of His grace. It is perfected through His loving discipline and through our sharing in the sufferings of Christ. Like the presents under the tree when I was a small boy, it is not the gift I am expecting or would choose.
Yet – it is the gift I need!
I need the Gift of Fire!
Lord, I thank you for baptizing me in the Spirit and with fire! Forgive me for the times when I try to run from the fire. May I embrace the fire of Your holiness and love, working in my life, so that I can know You and grow in Your grace! Thank Your for the wonderful Gift of Fire!
- “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them mere rubbish, so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; if somehow I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:8-11 NASB
In Jesus’ Name!