Zeph 3:14-18; Phil 4:4-7; Lk 3:10-18
And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?" He said to them in reply, "Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise." Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, "Teacher, what should we do?" He answered them, "Stop collecting more than what is prescribed." Soldiers also asked him, "And what is it that we should do?" He told them, "Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages." Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah. John answered them all, saying, "I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people. Lk 3:10-18
"I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire."
John would use water to cleanse the initiate for Christ but Christ would use fire to purify the believer. Water cleanses, but fire purifies. We use water to cleanse the dirt off the ore, but we use fire to burn the impurities out of it and, the more precious the metal, the hotter the fire.
Are we ready to be purified; to be made into God’s most precious ore? If so, we must be willing to embrace the fire. We must be willing to reject what is tepid, what is comfortable, and plunge into the heat, into the Refiner’s fire.
Once we are washed, we need to be ready for the purification. Once we’ve known the water of baptism we need to seek the refining fire of the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit who “arrested Jesus” and delivered him to be tempted in the wasteland for forty days. It is not a spa with a hot tub, there is no masseuse, and there are no pedicures on the river Jordan. It is a shocking awakening that makes us ready for the trials ahead. For Jesus, the waters of baptism led to the desert fires of Satan’s temptation. Yet, when he left Satan’s wasteland Jesus was refined. He knew every curve that Satan would throw his way. He was now ready for the tough work ahead.
Is that what we prepare ourselves for? Is that what we prepare and challenge our brothers and sisters in Christ to seek? All too often our communities coddle and coo their members instead of preparing them to go through fire and come out aligned with Christ’s mission:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” [Mt 28:19]
Are we ready? Ready to be purified and refined? Ready to be sent out to complete the call of the church? Let’s get hot! Let’s get “on fire!” Let’s go!
The Mighty One is coming, let’s be ready to make his way.
By Jerry Gable