“Salt and Light”: Matthew 3 | Fire Sale

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

Matthew 3:11

The hurt that we inflict on other people – the hurt we inflict on ourselves – comes from a single source: a broken relationship with God. And that brokenness is everyone’s problem. We are all in the same boat – on the same level – whether we are rich or poor, a man or a woman, black or white.

That brokenness is like a river, and its source is ancient – as old as the world itself. It’s Adam and Eve, then Cain and Abel. It’s the city of God at conflict with city of Man. We can find it now, in the heart of every man, woman, and child.

The source of the river is the fallen, human heart in conflict with God and itself. Unholiness, hatred, injustice are the tributaries – the ponds, lakes and rivers that many people live by. We may have houses (or at least, a second home) on those rivers. The problem is when we don’t see that that’s where we’ve built our houses; when we tell ourselves: “Everything’s fine. I don’t need to change a thing.” Or, as the bumper sticker reads: “I love the Lord. I love my dog, and the rest of y’all can go to hell.”

John invites us to the water – to the Jordan River – when he says: “do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” (3:9) In other words, it is not enough to say: “Well, I’m a Christian, so I’m fine, right …?” John, here, and Jesus later in Matthew’s Gospel, will say: “It is what you do, that will show whether you’ve understood…”

At the heart of life, is this problem: We know we need to change, and we know we don’t have the power to do it. To choose to change, means to answer – with our lives – John’s command: “Bear fruit worthy of repentance”. But who can do it? Who can honestly look at their lives, and say: “Yup, I’m up for it! I have a great track record! Thanks for the reminder, John, but I’m already on it!”

We – all of us – wrestle with the fact that we belong to the broad river of humanity, that finds its source in Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel. John the Baptist know this, and gives us this answer when he says: “he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

We know we need to change. We know we can’t do it on our own. The answer is Jesus, who comes to baptize with the Holy Spirit, which is like a fire. When the Holy Spirit sets up shop in your heart, the change will come, and the fire will burn away what stands in the way.

If we have houses on the riverbanks of unholiness, hatred, and injustice; if we have friends, family members or colleagues with houses on those rivers, John says it’s time for a fire sale: Everything must go.

If we want to build lives that share God’s light and love, we need the Holy Spirit – we need his fire, to begin in our hearts, and then transform everything about us. If that happens, people will want to draw near, and know: “Who gave you this light? Who gave you this warmth?”

Thank you for stopping by! If you would like your devotional on the go, you can listen to them on SPOTIFY or APPLE podcasts.

I pastor Mattituck Presbyterian Church, on the North Fork of Long Island. You can visit our website, HERE, and if you would like to view our worship services and my messages, you can join us on Facebook at 9:00am (Contemporary) and 11:15am (Traditional Worship Service): FACEBOOK, or you can watch recent messages on YOUTUBE.

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