Many of us would say that John 3:16 is one of our favorite Bible verses. But you really should consider Luke 3:16. This verse contains some great news, but it comes with a twist. Have you ever gotten a piece of good news that didn’t seem so very good when you first heard it? Most things in life that are truly beneficial to you carry a high price tag. That is what it’s like when John promises that Jesus will baptize his followers with the Holy Spirit and fire. This is not just about receiving a gift of tongues – this is about being transformed into a totally new way of living.
We are told here that John preached the good news, yet we find him talking about broods of vipers, the wrath to come, axes laid to the root of trees and repentance. And this is good news? Yes, it is; and as a Christian it is the best news you will ever hear.
God loves us and sends his Son to deliver us from the penalty of sin. He then immerses us in his precious Holy Spirit in order to purge us from the power of sin in our lives. God loves us just as we are, but he loves us too much to let us stay as we are. This salvation is active, and this work of the Spirit will change us so that we begin to live in the only way that makes us truly free.
“His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
John’s audience clearly understood the analogy he was using here. When wheat was ripe it was gathered and taken to the threshing floor where one of several processes were used to separate the chaff (which was worthless) from the wheat (which was necessary for sustaining life). Some of these processes were simple; others were harsh and radical. Whatever it took to separate the precious from the worthless was used. This is exactly what God does, through the convicting, teaching, comforting and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. The entire process, although it doesn’t seem profitable as we are going through it, is for our good and for God’s glory. It is all about the Savior cleansing those who belong to him – and this involves repentance.
John goes on to give very practical teaching concerning what this repentance looks like:
give from what you have to those in need (kill your greed); stop being crooked in your dealings with others (be completely honest and think of others’ needs); stop bullying for your own gain and be content with what you have. These are what John refers to as bearing “fruit in keeping with repentance.”
Baptism in water is one thing – baptism by fire is another. The fullness of the Holy Spirit is one thing – the threshing floor is another thing. We are quick to thank God for the saving work of Jesus on the cross. Let’s also be quick to thank him for – and cooperate with – the sanctifying work of the Spirit on the threshing floors of our lives.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6