By, Isam Itson III
Matthew 3:11 – “I baptize you with water for 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.”
Luke 3:7-16 – He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”
As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Corruption and injustice are not modern problems in human societies. People have been taking advantage of their positions of authority as long as there have been people in positions of authority. There were people calling for the overthrow of Rome throughout Israel during the lifetime of John the Baptist. They were working for radical change in their society. But John did not rally the people for revolution. He called the people to personal repentance.
John the Baptist called on people to stop exploiting their positions within the Roman system for personal gain at the expense of others. John called people in positions of authority to sacrificial service. He called people to live for God’s honor and to trust God with the fulfillment of their personal needs. He called them to live within their means and to bless others.
Followers of God in Jesus Christ need the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist was looking ahead, preparing for Jesus to begin His work. John knew that his efforts were nothing without Jesus Christ coming to fill people with the Holy Spirit. Like John, God shows us things that must be dealt with in our personal lives, our worshipping communities, and our society at large. Also like John, we need to recognize that the timing of the commencement of God ‘s work through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit in our churches and society, is up to God Himself.
As we wait for God to move through our societies and across our world, Jesus Christ fills us with his Holy Spirit so that we have the strength and wisdom to honor God’s love and consideration for the needs of others right now. God helps us trust him enough to bless others at our own expense as a lifestyle. What God provides today is enough to honor God and God’s love for others today. We trust God with our needs and strength for today, tomorrow, and every day after that.
We easily grow anxious and discouraged as sin multiplies around us. We can even be tempted to “take matters into our own hands”, because “something must be done.” “Justice delayed is justice denied.” “No justice, no peace.” As followers of God we follow God’s lead. We get in line with what God is doing, the way God is doing it. We live with integrity. We speak the truth in love. We bless the people we encounter in our daily lives. We work on the ground and trust the timing of God’s intervention in the world from the top down.
Don ‘t give in to discouragement when God seems to be “taking his sweet time” answering your prayers or fulfilling his word. Stay faithful, trusting in God’s love, wisdom and power to act at the most opportune time. Even if that timing does not agree with your own estimation of the situation. Do not be distracted by what is happening from the top of society down. Participate in what God is doing in society through his faithful followers from the ground up.
1. Identify those things that God has most recently shown you to do in your own life through His word and by His Spirit.
2. On a consistent basis, pray and ask God to help you love him and honor his love for others.
3. Trust God to provide for your legitimate needs while he works through you in the lives of the people around you.