Read: Luke 3:1-20
“I baptize you with water; but someone is coming soon who is greater than I am – so much greater that I’m not even worthy to be His slave and untie the straps of His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Luke 3:16
John starts his public ministry after years of living in the wilderness. His job was to prepare the people for the Messiah (Jesus). They had been leaning on their heritage and traditions to save them, but John made it clear that God’s salvation was not a collective salvation but a personal one.
He also made it clear that how they lived really mattered. He called people to personal and public repentance, to generosity, justice, honesty and contentment.
John also understood from the beginning that it wasn’t about him. His ministry was about Jesus. Later he will say that “I must become less and He must become more.” In this passage He declares that he is simply baptizing with water, but Jesus will baptize with the promised Holy Spirit.
So often, even today, people lean on their family connections for spiritual peace of mind. You know… my grandma prays for me every day, so I’m covered. Or they’ll come to church hoping that somehow that practice will save them.
In reality, God’s salvation is still and always will be a personal salvation. It’s a decision that we must make to repent (turn from the sin in our lives and turn to God), obey (being baptized is part of that, as well as generosity, justice, honesty and contentment), and be baptized or filled with the Holy Spirit.
Everything changed with Jesus… the Holy Spirit is now available to all who will come to Him. Many Christians are content to stop at baptism with water and forgo the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
Yet the Spirit is the One who gives us the power to truly follow God. He is the one who changes us from the inside out, who empowers us to shine the light of God to the world around us, who brings us peace in the storms of life, who fills the empty in our hearts, and it’s through the Holy Spirit that we can have an ongoing conversation with the God of the universe. The Spirit is how we can have a relationship with God.
People sometimes ask me if they have received / been filled / been baptized with the Holy Spirit. I believe that when you surrender your life and will to Christ, the Spirit comes and lives in your heart. But I also believe that God will go on filling us (subsequent fillings) with His Spirit if we invite Him to do so. Sometimes that can feel dramatic, other times serene, and sometimes you don’t feel anything in particular.
The question isn’t the “feeling level” of the filling, but our willingness to seek that filling. Jesus said in Matthew 11, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” He goes on to say “how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
I ask God to fill me with His Spirit multiple times a day. Walking with God on the inside is the pathway to life in all its fullness on the outside. Invite Him to fill you now, and continue to ask Him to fill you throughout your life.
Holy Spirit – will you fill me, baptize me with your presence, and empower me to follow God and be a light in the darkness. In Jesus’ name, amen.