“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but 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.”
-Matthew 3:11 NKJV
I often use the analogy of a child wanting to touch a red hot stove when attempting to convey they concept of how we think of how God punishes us. God tells us, “don’t touch that, it’s hot.” Then when we touch it anyway and get burned. So, we blame God rather than the stove. Worse, we blame God AND the stove itself, but completely overlook who’s really at fault. God warned us, and the stove merely did what it is designed to do. It was our own decision to touch it which caused us to get burned.
The idea of God’s fire is used in many places throughout the Bible. For example if we read the next verse in the book of Matthew…
“His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.””
-Matthew 3:12 NKJV
Left on its own this may seem like Gods out to get us for our mistakes, but nothing could be further from the truth. Paul gives us more clarification as he writes about God’s fire.
“Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
I Corinthians 12-15 NKJV
In other words, God has a Holy fire which consumes and destroys evil. When something impure or unholy comes into contact with this fire it is burned away. The beauty is found in “why.”
God burns away the wicked so that what remains will be good and holy. Just as darkness cannot be used to smother light, evil simply cannot survive the presence of God’s Holiness. We tend to think more of the things which were burned away and fail to revel at what remains after. “Gold, Silver, and Precious Stones” are not destroyed by the fire. Rather they are often formed through this process into an even more beautiful piece of jewelry or art.
In fact, the more the light shines on these things, the more they glimmer, sparkle, and shine.
There will be times in your life where the filth of sin is covering over the very best parts of you. When you’re then held to the fire these “evils” will be burned away. Most certainly not the most pleasant of sensations! But what will remain is a beautiful and glistening piece of art, crafted by God himself.
There’s a story I’m reminded of in Daniel chapter 3. Nebuchadnezzar built a large golden idol and made everyone bow to it. Everyone, except for Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego. Friends of Daniel.
For their unwillingness to bow and worship a false idol, Nebuchadnezzar had them bound and tied. They were then thrown into a furnace to be burned alive. However, God intervened, and He saves them from this horrible fate.
“Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.””
-Daniel 3:24-25 NKJV
In fact the fire did burn something. It burned away the restraints of the men, and they simple walked out of the fire.
God’s Fire is not a punishment but a purification. It removes the very things which smother and choke life away from us. It reveals the good, forges it, and helps it shine brighter than it ever could in the darkness. Even better, if we trust in it, it will burn away our restraints and set us free.
It’s entirely possible you can feel the fire all around you in your life right now. Please, trust in the God who made you, loves you, and wishes the best for you. Do not let heavy burdens plague your heart. The fire is very hot. But “you” will not be burned, only the wicked and evil need fear the fire.
Let God’s fire do what it does, and you will soon see it produce what only it can. Beauty, Refinement, and Freedom.