A Fire That Cleanses.
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“He (Jesus) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
Matthew 3:11c English Standard Version
The old house had seen many families live in it. First built as a church parsonage in 1894 and expanded several times, it had housed six pastors and their families until 1962 when it was sold to my aunt and uncle. When I bought the property, it had sat vacant for 6 years and had been broken into numerous times. Overgrown bushes and trees and blackberry vines around it gave it a “haunted house” reputation in the neighborhood.
But now the property was under new ownership. The house must be destroyed so that a new house might be built on the property. I cleared the trees and vines and burned them. And the local fire department, in one giant blaze, burned down the old house.
It was sad, but necessary. The new owner needed a new house, and that fire was the cleansing agent to help make it happen.
One of the most common symbols for the Holy Spirit is fire. And rightly so, for when Jesus takes new ownership of a soul won for Him, the old “stuff” has to go. All of the old sin, with its impure thoughts, filthy habits, and stinking guilt has to go. And so, in baptism, there is not only a cleansing of water, but a catharsis, a burning up, a cleansing of fire. This is the work of the Holy Spirit and repentance. This is the fire that cleanses the soul that was captive to sin and makes it fit for the new owner, the Lord Jesus Christ.
As I watched the old house burn, I did think of its former occupants and its former history. But more, I looked forward to the new house, the new beginning, the new life that would come after this giant, fiery cleansing. And so, too, I don’t look back on my former way of life of sin, but I look forward to my new life of righteousness in Jesus Christ. And I look forward to the new heavens and the new earth when this world is burnt up, and God establishes His kingdom forever and ever.
Text and Photo Copyright Steve Nickodemus