Tongues of fire

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.”

Luke 3:16-17 (NIV)

Water cleans.

John’s baptism was and still is symbolic of a spiritual cleansing, but it could never be anything more. We use water baptism as an outward symbol of an inner change. Our minds and our souls (mind, will, and emotions) must be engaged when we make the choice to be baptised in water. It is a sign of commitment to Christ.

Fire purifies.

It is only the baptism of the Holy Spirit that brings about true purification. All three parts of our being—body, soul, and spirit—must be engaged to receive this baptism. It is a sign of reliance on Christ.

Anyone can be baptised in water. Some experience great change and profess to feel something more than wet when they resurface. To some, it is merely a public declaration of their commitment to Jesus.

Anyone can be baptised in the Holy Spirit, but not everyone will display the evidence of it—tongues.

They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Acts 2:3-4 (NIV)

Holy Spirit baptism connects us to the Father in a way that nothing else can. The fire of the Spirit, the one John spoke of in the Gospel of Luke, cleanses us from within. If we allow it, it will burn away the impurities from our lives. But the key is submission and complete reliance. So long as we fight for control, we will never allow the Spirit to work in us.

There are those who would seek to tame and control the power of the Holy Spirit, but it is not ours to control. Rather, we must give ourselves over to His control. As contradictory as it may seem, there is no greater freedom to be found than when we give over control of our lives to the Spirit of God. It is only then that we have an even greater bond with the Father and an ability to pray His perfect will.

Neither water baptism nor baptism in the Holy Spirit are required of us to gain entrance into Heaven. But if God has provided for us a way to be even closer to Him, why would we not jump at the opportunity?

Read: Joshua 9-10, Luke 3

Look!

It’s nice to have people around (if you’re a people person, anyway). It can make you feel important or somehow special to not only have people around, but to have people follow you. Once you get used to having people following you, hanging on your every word, it can be difficult to let that go. But that is exactly what John the Baptist did.

John, Jesus’ cousin, was only a few months older than Jesus. God commissioned him to go ahead of Jesus to proclaim the Messiah, the new King of the Jews, the Son of God. In doing this, John amassed followers—people who believed in his message and allowed John to baptise them in water. These people would follow him around and would help to collect even more followers.

Then Jesus’ time came.

John had a choice to make. He could cling to his followers and continue preparing the way for the Lord or he could do as he did and let go.

The following day, John was again standing with two of his disciples. As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and then declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!”

John 1:35-36 (NLT)

John knew that it wasn’t up to him to keep collecting disciples for himself, but rather to make disciples for Christ. He carried no animosity whatsoever toward his cousin and he willinging allowed his followers to go.

Then John’s two disciples turned and followed Jesus.

John 1:37 (NLT)

Just like that. John lost two followers and Jesus gained two.

Our Commission is the same a John’s—prepare the way for the Son of God and point Him out to any who will listen. But then the difficult part comes, when they’ve met Jesus, we need to let them go. I don’t mean to say that we introduce people to Jesus and then walk away, leaving them to struggle in their newfound faith. New believers need to be taught the Word of God. They need to learn how to be followers of Jesus. But once they have an understanding of the new life they have gained, we don’t get to “keep” them. They are no longer our followers, but Jesus’ followers.

Like John, we need to be able to point and say, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” And then we need to allow those people to follow Christ, not us. It can be difficult sometimes when those people choose a direction we may not have chosen for them. John had probably grown close to Andrew and Peter as they followed him. It is quite possible that they were both followers and friends. Yet, when the time came, he did not hold them back, but pointed at Jesus. Look! John had done his work well because, without question, Andrew and Peter stepped away from John and into step with Jesus.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Kings 16-18, John 1:29-51