John gives us two camera angles on the coming of the Christ – a preview for all mankind to see. First, v16-17, the one who baptises with The Holy Spirit and fire.
Some are called, v17, “chaff” and will be gathered up, thrown to the wind and burned with an unquenchable fire. Chaff are people. Ignited by the fires of God's judgement. God who says to hell with those who trust in their own behaviour and background. It's not nice and you're not meant to want to be chaff. We can't minimise this part of God's news Richard Sibbes writes:
When is grace glory to a sinner? Oh, when he feels the weight and burden of his sin and languishing desires. Oh, that I might have a drop of mercy.We must see that we should all be chaff for our deeds – and yet some are called wheat. Wheat is also gathered. Not to be burned, but to be stored in the barn. Wheat receives the Holy Spirit – immersed by God, freely. Darrell Bock says:
“God's salvation is seen in the Spirit baptism that Christ brings”.The Prophet Ezekiel promised that God would take out our dead hearts and give us new ones, and put his Spirit in us. Paul says the same in Galatians 3 – the Spirit is the promise of the gospel. And when Luke talks about receiving the Spirit he means becoming a Christian – immersed into God.
Often people say that being a Christian is about us changing us from the outside. We're deceived if we think like that. The good news is that God comes to people who can't save themselves and changes us from the inside out!
Second camera angle on the coming of Yahweh to his people. Look back up to v6. God's salvation revealed. First John, then the Christ. There is anticipation, then the preparation and then the arrival. I remember when I started here in 1997 they talked about rebuilding Southgate, after a decade of anticipation now they've turned it into rubble... and eventually the new centre will emerge. What we see in Luke is much better than that! The greatest show on earth – the revealing of God's salvation. Isaiah 40 says 'all mankind will see the glory of the Lord'. Luke has simply interpreted this for us, saying: all mankind will see God's salvation. The Bible describes the glory of God as being found in the face of our saviour Jesus Christ. And God says Jesus' glory is revealed in Jesus death. Jesus came to reveal himself to us through his life, death and resurrection.
We should face the axe and fire of God's judgement, and yet Jesus was punished in our place. Why? So that we might know God intimately forever, by the Holy Spirit – and he opens our eyes and opens our hearts to see. Richard Sibbes again:
“We must fix the eye of the soul; fix our meditation upon the glory of God and the excellency of Christ. A moving, rolling eye sees nothing. We must set some time apart to fix our meditations upon the excellent things of the gospel”.You know how it is you can sit and scan read the internet for hours and take nothing in, but an hour chewing on a single verse of scripture about Jesus can ignite your soul. We should pray like this Puritan prayer:
“Lift the mists and darkness of unbelief,God comes to us in Jesus by the Spirit to end our evil apathy to his glory and inflame us with adoration and enjoyment of his great gospel. A Christian is not someone with the right behaviour. A Christian is not someone from the right background.Charles Simeon once wrote:
brighten my soul with the pure light of truth...
take the things of Christ
and show them to my soul.
Open for me the wondrous volumes
of truth in his 'it is finished'.
Increase my faith in the
clear knowledge of atonement achieved,
expiation completed, satisfaction made,
guilt done away with, my debt paid,
my sins forgiven, my person redeemed,
my soul saved, hell vanquished,
heaven opened, eternity mine.
O Holy Spirit deepen in me that saving lesson.
Write this upon my heart
that my walk may be sin-loathing,
sin-fleeing and Christ loving”
“a nominal Christian is happy to prove the importance of the crucified redeemer.... but the true Christian delights in the cross, rejoices in it, glories in it and shudders at the thought of glorying in anything else”The only hope we have is when our only hope is Jesus. When we no longer skulk around like vipers seeking advantages, self-pitying or self-promoting, but instead come to Jesus asking for the undeserved gift of life. “What should you do then?” Simply see your saviour.
v17 - 1. See, because God promised all would, and the axe is ready, the unquenchable fire is being kindled. The deepest evil you have done is to live with indifference to Jesus, John has warned us against that.
v6 - 2. See, because of the glory of God in the face of Jesus. See because he comes to us. Feed on him in the word of God – delight in him, taste and see that the Lord is glorious and good. Six months ago I spoke with a student in Guildford who told me he didn't see what the big deal was about spending forever with Jesus, it sounded boring, a dull retirement, he said. After we talked he took away one of the biographies of Jesus, like this one by Luke. Have the humility to investigate it for yourself. Have the humility and the guts to ask a Christian to read with you and help you understand. Your soul starves for the glory of God in Jesus, don't pass that up.
Perhaps you've seen enough, you're like I was in Summer 1997, you know there is no where to go apart from Jesus. Then I plead with you, stop trusting your background and behaviour. See that your only hope is when your only hope is Jesus – become a Christian. Ask God to give you a new heart because of Jesus.
And if you already see – if you're already a Christian - then fill your heart with Christ from the scriptures, and let the Holy Spirit transform you from the inside out. Rejoice daily that the axe fell on Jesus instead of you – rejoice that though death is deserved you enjoy the full force of God's favour. Rejoice with the Psalmists that there is pleasure evermore with Jesus. Sing with them that one day in the blood-soaked courts of Jesus is better than a thousand elsewhere.
And know that Jesus promised that all would hear this message – including those on your course, corridor and clubs. Since Jesus is glorious, then presume the invite to open the Bible with those people. Invite people to spend an hour with you this Sunday afternoon – in your room or in the bar – to look at a biography of Jesus, maybe start with Luke chapter 3 – one hour, no conditions – say you'd like to give them an opportunity to consider Jesus for themselves as adults. John, v18, exhorted and encouraged people to hear the good news about Jesus. He doesn't want our attention – he's a signpost, preaching God's salvation. Pointing towards God's glory in Jesus.