Matthew 3: 7-12
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
This passage has always intrigued me. It starts with a rebuke of those who should know better but who had reduced faith to religion and the politics of power. John has no time for them and I think we are given insight into why in the passage. He explains what he is doing – providing a way forward through the gateway of repentance and the baptism that is associated with this and then points to Jesus. In pointing to Jesus John speaks of Baptism in the Spirit, yet perhaps not in a manner we are all that familiar with. He speaks of the Baptism in Spirit that is associated with fire and it is clear that the fire is not the fire of enthusiasm but the fire of cleansing.
The work of the Spirit in cleansing is not that often spoken of yet the Apostle John reminds us in John 16:8 that the Spirit convicts with respect to sin, righteousness and judgment. It is clear that God judges us and expects us to repent when His judgment comes. However, it is not uncommon that people rather than expressing repentance lash out blaming others for the guilt they feel for their sin – a totally appropriate emotion. This was evidenced in the reactions of the Pharisees and Sadducees of the day in their religious behaviours!
So what of us when the Spirit comes in conviction – do we blame shift or humble ourselves before Him and ask for His cleaning fire to burn the impurity from us – perhaps it is best to ask when was your last confession session at the feet of Jesus. If it was days ago – or ‘I don’t remember when’ – take the time now to get on your knees and repent of your pride and independence and of your hard heart before the King and ask Him to burn His fire within you and soften your heart.
Written by Ps. Richard Botta