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April 2012

A Baptism of Fire and of the Holy Spirit, Part 3

In this post I'm going to talk about being baptised in fire. The main point of this post is that God's fire is a good thing. The scripture says that everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). God's fire does not bring persecution or tribulation. God's fire helps us to live godly lives in Christ Jesus. His fire brings separation, it sets us apart from the world. His fire sets us free. God is good, and his fire is good.

Matthew 3:11-12
"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with 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."

Fire can be a difficult thing to discuss simply because fire is used to illustrate so many things in the scripture. It is used to illustrate zeal, passion, light, power, purification, the heat of trials, being consumed, a lot of things. So when the scripture says Jesus will immerse us in fire it can be hard to say exactly what that means.

So I'm not going to say exactly what it means. I don't know that I can. But there are some things that, to me, indicate what we can expect from God's fire. One of these indications, from the scripture above, is separation. Being immersed in God's fire and in the Holy Spirit brings separation from the world into our lives. We are set apart, or made holy. Things that keep us from being used by God, from fulfilling our purpose, lose their hold on us (are burned up).

2 Timothy 3:10-13
10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

Paul did not live a godly life because of his persecutions, he was persecuted for living a godly life. Fire helps us live a godly life. Fire helps us to walk in a way that is different from the world, and in a way that many in the world will hate. So as fire works in us to be God's servants and call people to Jesus, and as people respond and are set free, others will turn against us. Fire makes a distinction between people who have a desire to live godly and people who don't.

Luke 12:49-53
49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Again, fire brings separation. Fire is not the separation itself, but one effect of God's fire is separation, setting apart, dividing all who have purposed in their hearts to serve God from all who do not have that purpose in their hearts.

Isaiah 6:5-7
"Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty." [6] Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. [7] With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for. "

In the example above a live coal from God's fire was used to touch Isaiah's lips. Just this coal from God's fire had the ability to take guilt away and atone for Isaiah's unclean lips. No pain, no suffering, just a touch from this living coal. There is great power in God's fire to make us clean. If just a touch of a live coal can take away the chaff of guilt, imagine what a raging and unquenchable fire can do in us.

Luke 14:27-29
And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you

Jesus tells us to count the cost, and there is a cost to having God's fire in our lives. God is good and his fire is amazing. It fills us with his presence. But is it also costly. Living a godly life in Christ Jesus is costly. If you desire is to live a godly life in Christ Jesus, then I encourage you to count the cost and then ask Jesus to immerse you in his fire. It could bring you a time of great peace or a time of persecution. God's hand on each of us is different, but his thoughts for all of us are good. Trust him and let his fire rest on your and your home.

Daniel 3:22-27
The king's command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, [23] and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace. [24] Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, "Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?" They replied, "Certainly, O king." [25] He said, "Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods." [26] Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!" So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, [27] and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

While this fire was created by men, God's presence in the fire made it his. We see the effects of God's fire here. First, what had bound the men was burned off without causing any harm. They were delivered. Not a hair of their heads was singed. There was no scorching, and no smell of fire or smoke. God's fire is only destructive to those things that hinder us, that bind us, that come against us. But to us, God's fire is our friend.

Persecutions, trials, and tribulations are going to happen. And though many of these things we will learn patience, endurance, faith, and wisdom. But these don't come because we are baptised in God's fire. These things will just come. God's fire is what strengthens us in the midst of trials and tribulations, his fire imparts patience, endurance, faith, and wisdom. We need God's fire.

I really want to encourage you to start asking God to baptise, or immerse, you in his fire. Ask him to fill your home with his fire. I do. I don't do this expecting something in particular, except I fully expect his fire to help me and my family to stand, to be strong, to seek his face each day, to be comforted, to be delivered, to be encouraged, to help us live godly in Christ Jesus. That is what I expect from his fire. You can expect the same.