Reading Time: 8 Minutes
There is a story about a man, who was getting a tour of heaven. He came by a large warehouse-like room. The room seemed to go on for a distance further than the eye could see. It was stacked to the ceiling with boxes covered in beautifully colored wrapping paper and exquisite bows.
The man turned to the tour guide and asked, “What is this room and what are all of those boxes?”
“Oh,” replied the guide with a touch of sadness in her voice. “These are all of the gifts that God sent to people on earth that were never opened.”
Today, we’re going to read about the finest gift God has for us. Let’s be sure to open and enjoy this gift from our loving heavenly Father.
John the Baptist ended his message in Matthew 3 with these words, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3.11-12).
Jesus said this about John the Baptist, “Among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11.11). John, however, viewed himself in such a low position that he felt he was not worthy to even carry Jesus’ sandals.
It is the most natural thing in the world for great people, like John and Moses, to be humble. Once you have had an encounter with God, deep humility naturally follows.
The Book of Numbers describes the humility of Moses, “Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12.3).
Exodus details the first encounter Moses had with God. He was tending the flocks of his father-in-law and saw an unusual bush that was burning but was not consumed. As a result . . .
“Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’
“When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’
“Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’
“And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God” (Exodus 3.3-6).
Paul, who personally met the risen Lord on the road to Damascus, said “no one can boast in the presence of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1.29). Humility is always the product of an experience with the Living God.
Moses, John and Paul knew the awesome nature of God. Their intimate knowledge produced deep humility. They had what the Bible calls the “fear of the Lord.” They lived in awe of God, knew their place in his work, and were truly his humble servants.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus addressed various aspects of humility and pride. It will come as no surprise to you that in his greatest sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, there will be instruction about humility.
God can only trust his power to people who are humble enough to follow his directions. In 2004, I had the opportunity to sit beside Cliff Barrows, the long-time music leader for Billy Graham. He had a distinct spiritual power that I have noticed from only a few people in my lifetime.
When Cliff Barrows was a young man, his greatest desire was to be a preacher. Billy Graham was just beginning his ministry and Barrows was invited to sing during the services. He came to a crisis point when God asked him if he was willing to give up preaching and be content to sing with Billy Graham. Barrows told God, “I am your servant. I will do whatever you want. If all you want me to do is carry Billy Graham’s suitcase, I will do that.”
The spiritual power that was clearly present in Cliff Barrows was produced by a humble yielding to God’s will for over fifty years.
Don’t Refuse This Gift
John the Baptist told his audience that Jesus would baptize people with the Holy Spirit. If we leave the gift of the Holy Spirit in a heavenly warehouse, we have deprived ourselves one of God’s richest gifts.
I imagine the scene of John’s baptism like this. John is standing waist deep in the Jordan River. People line the shore. Some who have been baptized are still in the water. John declares, “I baptize you with water for repentance. . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3.11). There are a couple of very clear things about this image.
(1) The word that John used for baptize literally means “to immerse.” Everyone who was baptized by John was completely immersed – head-to-toe, back-to-front – in the water.
To be baptized in the Holy Spirit is to be immersed in the life of the Spirit. The gift God wants us to have is that his Spirit will be ahead of us, preparing us for each day. He will be behind us, helping us clean up any mess we have made. He will be above us, granting us the necessary wisdom for life’s decisions. He will be beneath us, directing our steps.
Even better, the Holy Spirit will be within us. Paul writes, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5.18). People who are filled with wine to the point of drunkenness, are activated, captivated and motivated by the wine.
The gift of God’s Spirit will cause us to be activated, captivated and motivated in all areas of life by God’s indwelling Spirit. The source of the joyful and powerful life of Cliff Barrows was the fact that God’s Spirit captivated, motivated, and activated his life.
(2) John’s baptism in the Jordan River pictured a tremendous fact about the Holy Spirit. Just as no human being could gather the entire river in their arms, neither can we capture all of the Holy Spirit. We can’t get all of the Spirit, but the Spirit can get all of us.
Jesus told Nicodemus, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3.8).
We can’t understand all of the ways of the Spirit, any more than we can’t capture the wind. Yet, he can capture all of us.
The filling of the Spirit that Paul described occurs when we surrender the throne of our life to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. The repentance that both John and Jesus call for is the surrender of our self-made kingdom to become a partner with God in his government.
Cliff Barrows surrendered his dream of being a preacher and lived a life of surrender to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. In turn, the Spirit led him to an abundant and powerful life of joy and blessing for the 93 years of his time on earth.
Baptism with Fire
Let’s review John’s message. He said, “[Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3.11-12).
What does the fire do? It is an image of God burning away all of the impurities of our lives. The presence of the Holy Spirit is like a fire that fuels our passion for God. At the same time, it burns up the stony heart of self-will, self-pleasing, self-pride, and self-centered living.
Those who refuse to change their mind and behavior (repent), are equated with chaff. Chaff is not useful and can only be eliminated as a waste product.
How to Open the Gift
Both John the Baptist and Jesus opened their ministry with these words, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 3.3, 4.17). To open the gift of the Holy Spirit, we need to do the following:
(1) We need to change our mind (repent) about whose kingdom is ruling our lives.
(2) When we step off the throne of our own little kingdom and invite Jesus to rule us as partners in his great kingdom, the Holy Spirit becomes a part of our lives right then and there.
(3) With the Spirit in control, we simply acknowledge his leadership every day and yield to his direction as he is willing to give it.
(4) We will discover the value of this amazing gift from God, as we live each day with Jesus on the throne of our lives through the power of the Spirit.
Dear God, our thanks to you for the gift of the Holy Spirit is beyond our ability to express in words. Sadly, our neglect of this gift is one of our deepest regrets. Please relieve us of the obsession for self to rule our lives. May Jesus through your Spirit sit on the throne of our lives today.