Text: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
A Sunday school class one day heard the loud siren’s of a fire engine passing by. All the kids noticed sitting in the front seat was the engine’s mascot; a Dalmatian dog. One of the kids asked out loud, “I wonder why the fire department have dogs with them?” One kid answered, “To smell out the smoke.” Another kid answered, “No, to find people in the fire.” But a third kid answered, “No, you’re all wrong. They have dogs with them to find the fire hydrants.”
Have you ever been in the presence of a raging fire? I once saw a Winnebago pull into the gas station parking lot. The guy jumped out and opened the hood. Just as he did the engine compartment burst into flames. I called 911 and by the time I hung up the fire spread into the driving compartment. The station attendant came running out with an extinguisher, but the fire was so hot it was useless. There was nobody else in the camper and all we could do was stand back and watch it burn. The fire was so hot, the windows melted and blew out. The tires blew out and burned. It was a raging inferno by the time the fire department got there and got a couple hoses out. All that was left was a black and smoldering metal frame.
As we have all seen in the news lately, fire can be an incredibly destructive force. It can burn thousands of acres, burn down cities, burn down homes, and take human life indiscriminately. But on the other hand, fire is a great benefit to humanity ever since we learned to harness its potential. By fire we heat our homes, temper our steal, and even send people into outer space. That is the nature of fire.
There is also a spiritual parallel to fire. Luke records for us in our Gospel Lesson today how John the Baptist talked about fire in regards to baptism. In Luke 3:16, John said about those who believed on Jesus, he said, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Did you hear the “and fire,” part?
You know, we don’t often think about the “and fire” part of John’s speech. John would baptize the people of Israel with water, but Jesus would baptize the people with the Holy Spirit and fire. Now the Holy Spirit part we can understand, but what is the fire part and how does it work in our lives?
I think it is important for us as Christians to understand this fire, how it actually burns inside of each of us, and how it works in our lives. Here is the most important aspect about this fire. It is that,
THE FIRE GUIDES US IN THE WAY OF GOD THE FATHER:
- On the day Jesus was baptized the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in full measure.
- The Spirit appeared as a dove because of the symbolism with Noah and the flood waters. As a dove was sent to Noah telling him that God’s wrath had passed through the washing away of the wickedness of humankind through the flood waters, so a dove descended on Jesus symbolizing the passing of God’s wrath through the washing away of sin through baptismal water.
- The voice of the Father spoke and Jesus received the full measure of the Holy Spirit.
- Because he had the Spirit, he could teach, John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
- Why could he teach that? Because it was the Holy Spirit burning within Jesus that made him the light of the world.
- Think about this: What was the one thing that nobody, not the Pharisees, the Scribes, the Saducees or the Herodians, could match Jesus on?
- What guided every step of Jesus’ ministry?
- Who was it that wrote Psalm 19:105; “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” but the Holy Spirit?
- By his teaching and his living example according to the Holy Spirit and Scripture he was able to show the true path to God, the true path to life everlasting.
- John spoke in Verse 16; “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.“
- The very same Holy Spirit would one day burn within Jesus’ disciples, and because of that, he could turn to them and tell them, Matthew 5:14; “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
- You and I have the very same Holy Spirit burning within us that burned within Jesus and his disciples. The Holy Spirit is a flaming fire that gives the forth light through the word of God so our path would be illuminated.
- This light shows us the way in which we should go to serve God, to accomplish his will for our lives, to love one another, to serve one another, and bear witness to the love of God.
This is the nature of the Holy Spirit fire, which illuminates our path by the Spirit’s light. And just like real fire, the flame of the Spirit can exist as the tiniest of flames, or it can shine as bright as a super nova. We each have the potential to be the light Jesus calls us to be. No matter how small the flame may be, it is still there. For many, also, just like a real fire, the flame just needs to be stoked, stirred up, and fed. It’s like the advice Paul gave to a young pastor named Timothy, he wrote, “Stir up the gift that is within you through the laying on of my hands.”
This is a New Year full of New Year of resolutions. So I encourage you to add one more to your list of resolutions: As Jesus said once in, John 9:4 “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” While we are in the world, we also are the light of the world. The Holy Spirit burns within us like fire in an engine of faith. And when we read God’s word, that engine is fueled and we are empowered to do the works of God by faith. So let us commit ourselves anew to doing the work of him who has sent us into the world to be that light. Let it fuel your faith on to good works, fervent prayer, and faithful living in the new year. Amen.