Thursday, February 17, 2011

Matthew 3: Repent and Receive

Mt 3:11-12 “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. 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.”

The word "repentance" (Greek: metanoia) spells change. However, the change called for is more than just outward conduct but a change of the mind (attitudes) about ourselves, about God and about others. Repentance spells CHANGE, but how can we who are sinners change? Obviously, the change called for is firstly a change of mind about who we are--that we are sinners in need of forgiveness (that is what water baptism signify, cleansing from sins). But we cannot just stop there, because being forgiven is not the end of the Christian life but only the beginning. We need to also acknowledge that we are weak and unable to live the life that is pleasing to God. What John the Baptist started, Jesus finishes--He baptizes us not with water but with the Holy Spirit so that like fire, He will burn up all the dross in our lives, leaving the Gold within us, which is Christ.

There are still many churches who cringes whenever someone says "Holy Spirit" over the pulpit. To them, the preacher might for all intent and purpose be talking about the Holy "Ghost" - for the subject inspires fear (like ghost stories) and skepticism  (like some people who don't believe in ghosts). But without the Holy Spirit, we are like pigs that are cleansed but returned back to wallowing in the mud because their nature has not changed. What we need is not just cleansing but transformation--the pigs need to become humans, hating rotting odors and stinking mud! Only the Holy Spirit can change our nature by creating within us a new heart that loves light, love and everything that pertains to righteousness, peace and joy (Rom. 14:17). 

That is why on the day of Pentecost, Peter did not just call the people to 'repent' but also to 'receive': "REPENT and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will RECEIVE the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call" (Acts 2:38-39). We need to preach not just the Gospel of Personal Salvation (forgiveness of sins) but the Gospel of the Kingdom (power to live a new life through the Holy Spirit). 

Lord, thank You that You have not only granted us forgiveness through the Blood of Christ, but You have also granted us the Kingdom power through the Spirit of Christ. May we continue to walk by Your Spirit daily. Amen.

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