15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying,
‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’
The problem with John is that I cannot keep his good advice. I cannot be the moral, fine, upstanding person John requires.
It is tempting to turn the Gospel into one more self-improvement project. Do better; be better; try harder. The message is so alluring – with diligence and self-discipline, you can create a better you. If only it was that easy.
Any standard I can achieve by personal will is vastly below the exalted vision of what it means to be truly human. I was created to be a God-image bearer in who shines the light of truth, beauty, and love. I am powerless to fulfill this vision by my own effort.
That is why the coming of Jesus is “good news.” One is coming “who will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Jesus is the one in whom the power of God dwells. Jesus invites me to recognize that I too am created to be a vessel of that Holy Spirit and fire who empowers me to become a fuller embodiment of that love which is my true nature.
But, if this inner power of God’s Spirit is going to be unleashed in my life, there are things I am going to need to put aside. Jesus is going to need “to clear the threshing-floor” of my life. There is some chaff to which I cling that must be burned “with unquenchable fire.”
The love of God that seeks to claim me is a burnishing love. It allows no rivals and incinerates all other attachments.
How does it change my view of the Gospel when I admit that I am powerless to fulfill its exalted vision of what it means to be human?
To what do I cling that might hinder the flow of God’s love in my life?