Dear Student of the Word,
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I trust you are having a blessed holiday season, but as you celebrate, I hope you are spending some time in God's Word. I am busy finishing up my daily devotional for 2014 and planning my next one, which will be called Life Matters and will focus on the book of Psalms. At the same time, I will continue to edit and publish these New Testament studies, this one from Luke's Gospel. The attached installment is Study 6 and has 7 parts, as they always do. This week I wrote in part five:
Study Six, Part Five
15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. 16 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. 17 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." 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.
3:15 – This could have been a temptation for John to think of himself more highly than he ought to have thought. It is important to know your purpose and who you are; it is also important to know who you are not. It is fascinating to read how expectant the Jews were. They had hope for a Messiah whom they had been expecting for centuries. But the hope had been kept alive through the teaching of the rabbis and the reading of Scripture. What hope! What consistency! I have trouble waiting on God’s promises for 10 years and these people were waiting eagerly from generation to generation for the coming of their Messiah.
3:16&17 – John knew his purpose was to prepare the way for the coming Messiah, so he deflected the people’s expectations clearly and confidently. John was powerful in what he did, but One was coming who was more powerful than John. John dealt with outward rituals like baptism, but the One coming would deal with internal issues.
I am more and more intrigued with the image of fire in our relationship with the Lord. Fire is destructive and painful when it comes in contact with our flesh. And that is how the fire of God can be. It burns away our impurities and it can hurt. We must not be surprised when the fire comes:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Peter 4:12-14 NASU).
And we must know what to do because the fire of God is an ever-present possibility: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29).
Are you in a fiery time? Is God burning away something in your life that is inconsistent in your walk with Him? If so, don’t fight it. Submit to the dealings of God in this season and He will bring you through. Remember, He is working to conform you to the image of Christ and that requires some major renovations at times. Don’t worry, however, this won’t last any longer than it takes to remove the problem and replace it with the Holy Spirit solution - so be encouraged.
3:18 – Obviously John spent much of his time teaching the people. Baptism was probably something he did for people who responded to his teaching. Let me repeat: As teachers, we must work to give people a chance to apply what we are teaching. Teaching that isn’t connected to the practicalities of life can lead to heady knowledge of God that doesn’t translate into action.
Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check (James 3:1-2).
If you are a teacher of truth, what are you doing to help people apply that truth? If you are not a teacher, then don’t try to be one unless God has called you to be.
As always, I welcome your comments to this week's study. For additional Bible studies, check out my website archive, which contains a complete collection of all my verse-by-verse New Testament studies, along with the daily devotional entitled What Would Jesus Ask You Today? Thank you and I hope you continue to enjoy this study of Luke's gospel from God's word.
As this year closes, I am asking for your financial help. I need you at this time to make a year-end contribution toward my personal support so I can continue the purpose work that I began 22 years ago. You can give through PayPal or by sending a tax-deductible check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882.