Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah, and more specifically, is found in the fourth chapter of the book. This passage of Scripture begins with a word that has actually been quite familiar to the house of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The fourth chapter of the prophetic book of Jeremiah opens with a wonderful invitation for the inhabitants of the land—“If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord, return unto me: and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove.” When considering these particular words written and undoubtedly spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, it’s necessary that we understand this invitation was actually spoken and given in two distinct parts. The first verse of the fourth chapter begins and opens with the invitation to return, but this is only part of the invitation. I think there are far too many times when we allow ourselves to get caught up in the first part of the invitation while completely neglecting and ignoring the second part of the invitation. The prophet Jeremiah didn’t simply encourage and invite the inhabitants to return unto the Lord, but he also encouraged them to an accompanying action. THE ACCOMPANYING ACTION OF RETURNING! THE ACCOMPANYING ACTION OF REPENTANCE! I can’t help but be reminded of the words of John the Baptist which are recorded for us in the third chapter of Matthew’s gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ. “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, Wehave Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:7-12).
When we come to Luke’s account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, we find his account of the ministry of John the Baptist as well. “And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God. Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptiszed of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able to of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat let him do likewise. Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:3-14).
WHAT SHALL WE DO THEN? WHAT SHALL WE DO? WHAT WHAT SHALL WE DO? Please don’t miss the incredible significance and importance of these words, for these words help confirm the incredibly powerful reality that surrounds the invitation to repent and return. Repentance and returning are only part of the equation of turning our hearts back to the Lord, for accompanying that repentance and returning must be the question before the Lord—“What shall we do then? Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—when was the last time you stood before the Lord and asked this very pointed and powerful question? When was the last time you stood before the Lord and asked Him what it was He required of you? When was the last time you knelt before the Lord having been so gripped by His word and message that you couldn’t help but ask the question regarding what action was required of you? In all reality, this question—the question asking what action is now required of us—is the fruit of such turning and returning to the Lord. I would dare say that it is virtually impossible to return unto the Lord without asking Him what it is He requires of you. Notice that John the Baptist spoke of bringing forth fruits worthy of repentance—a reality we often neglect and ignore. Oh, do you understand that there are fruits of repentance? We talk a lot about the fruit of the Spirit, yet I would dare say that we oftentimes neglect, and even ignore the fruits which are worthy of repentance. Perhaps the single greatest question I find myself asking right now is whether or not it can really be said there is true and genuine repentance without and apart from any fruits which confirm, demonstrate and manifest such repentance? The questions which the people, the publicans and the soldiers asked of John the Baptist are such questions we must ask when we come before the Lord, for their questions were directly connected and linked to bringing forth and bearing fruits unto repentance. The question “what shall we do then” is a question that essentially asks what actions demonstrate, what actions reveal, what actions confirm our repentance before the Lord. John the baptist didn’t simply burst forth with a message of repentance, but also a message of repentance accompanied by action. In all reality, the two distinct actions which confirmed one’s repentance before the Lord were: (1) baptism in the waters of the Jordan, and (2) bringing forth fruits. BAPTISM IN WATER & BRINGING FORTH FRUITS!
WHEN THE WATERS OF BAPTISM WATER THE GROUND FOR THE FRUITS OF REPENTANCE TO SPRING FORTH! I find it worth noting and mentioning that associated with repentance was baptism in water, for I would dare say that those waters were what saturated and soaked the ground so the fruits of repentance could break forth and bring forth a harvest. THE ABUNDANT HARVEST OF THE FRUITS OF REPENTANCE! I absolutely love that John not only came preaching repentance, but he came preaching a baptism unto repentance. Baptism was the initial sign of one’s repentance before the Lord, but even baptism wasn’t enough. Baptism was indeed an outward and external demonstration and manifestation of the inward reality of repentance, yet baptism in and of itself wasn’t enough. You will notice that John the Baptist didn’t simply speak of one single baptism, but a second accompanying baptism that would come afterward. THERE COMES A SECOND WORK! THERE COMES A SECOND BAPTISM! LIVING BETWEEN TWO BAPTISMS! John the Baptism came baptizing men and women in water unto repentance, yet there would come One after him who would baptize in fire unto sanctification. There is such a thing as living between two baptisms, and there is such a thing as experiencing the two-fold baptism of heaven. There is a baptism which is an outward and external manifestation and demonstration of an inward reality, yet there is a baptism which takes place on the inward part of our being and thus affects the outward. THE BAPTISM WHICH OCCURS OUTSIDE THE BODY! THE BAPTISM WHICH OCCURS WITHIN THE HEART AND SPIRIT! The baptism of water took place in the external, physical and natural realm, and was seen by all those who happened to be witnesses to the event. There is also, however, a baptism of fire which takes place—not in the external and physical realm, but rather, in the inner man. John came bringing forth a baptism unto repentance—a baptism unto repentance which prepared men and women for the manifestation of the kingdom of God. There would come One greater who would bring with Him the second work of the kingdom of God—the baptism of the Holy Ghost and Fire. Notice that Jesus spoke of being born of water and born of the spirit—born of the baptism of water, and born of the baptism of the Spirit. If you truly want to experience the manifestation and reality of the kingdom of heaven, it is absolutely necessary that you not only experience the baptism of water, but also the baptism of fire.
The more I consider this reality, the more I am drawn to the account of the children of Israel coming out of and breaking forth from their slavery, bondage and oppression in the land of Egypt. I am convinced that even after the children of Israel came forth out of the land of Egypt they too experience this baptism of water, as well as the baptism of fire. When the children of Israel came to the waters of the Red Sea, they found themselves standing between impossibility and impassibility, as well as the pursuit of the adversary and enemy. Before them were the waters of the Red Sea which seemed to bar their movement forward, while behind them was Pharaoh and the Egyptian army which sought to overtake them at the waters of the Red Sea, and bring them back into the land of Egypt. How absolutely wonderful and incredible it is that the Lord opened up the waters of the Red Sea, opened up and revealed the path which lie beneath the waters, and allowed the children of Israel to pass through those waters. The parted waters of the Red Sea served as a passage and path for the children of Israel, yet it served as the destruction and annihilation of the Egyptian army. The same waters which served and stood as the salvation of the children of Israel also stood as the destruction of their enemies and adversaries. It was there at the Red Sea where the children of Israel experienced this baptism of water—this baptism where their slavery, their oppression, their bondage was removed far from them, and those who pursued them would be drowned and destroyed in the midst. When the children of Israel came to Horeb—the mountain of God—in the Sinai wilderness, they would experience the mountain utterly consumed and ablaze with the fire of God. Consider Moses’ account of the experience and encounter—“And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voic eof the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And mount Saints was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. And the Lord came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up” (Exodus 19:16-20). In the very next chapter, Moses also records these words—“And all the people saw the thundering, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that His fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not. And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was” (Exodus 20:18-21).
It’s absolutely remarkable that it was at the waters of the Red Sea the children of Israel saw the salvation of the Lord in the destruction of their enemies, while it was at the mountain of God in Sinai the children of Israel received the Law of the Lord in the midst of the fire. I am convinced that it was at the Red Sea the children of Israel experienced the first baptism—the baptism of water—while it was at Horeb in the wilderness of Sinai the children of Israel experienced the baptism of fire. It is with the baptism of waters we experience the salvation of the Lord our God, yet it is with the baptism of fire when we experience the Law of the Lord. It was at the mountain where the children of Israel discovered the fruits which confirmed the experience they had at the Red Sea where their enemies were drowned and destroyed in the midst of the waters. It was there at the mountain—there in the presence of the consuming fire—where the children of Israel would be confronted with the fruits of salvation and the fruits of repentance before the Lord. It is in the baptism of water where we experience the salvation of the Lord as our enemies our drowned and annihilated, while it is in the baptism of water where the Lord enters into covenant with us and teaches us His statutes, His laws and His ways. John the Baptist came preaching a baptism of and a baptism unto repentance, while Jesus the Christ came offering a baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. It is in this second baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost where the Law of the Lord is taught, and where we truly encounter and experience the fruit of repentance, and ultimately the fruit of the Spirit. It is not enough for us to merely experience the baptism of water, for we must also experience the baptism of the Spirit—we must be born both of water and of the Spirit. It’s quite astounding that the children of Israel stood afar off from the mountain because of the consuming fire which burned upon and consumed, and because of the thunder and lightning. I am convinced that there are men and women in this generation who—just like the children of Israel of old—stand afar off and removed from the baptism of fire because of its appearance, and even because of what it might require of them. There are men and women who stand afar off from the mountain that burns with fire—stand afar off from the baptism of fire and of the Holy Spirit—because it is there in the presence of fire, smoke, thunder, lightning and thick darkness we learn how to walk in obedience before the Lord. It is there in the baptism of fire where we learn what pleases and how to please the Lord.
THE BAPTISM OF FIRE CONFRONTS US WITH THE LAW OF THE LORD. It is there in the midst of the fire—it is there in the presence of the fire and the Spirit—where we encounter the statutes, the commands, the laws, and the precepts of the Lord. THOU SHALT HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME! THOU SHALT NOT MAKE UNTO THEE ANY GRAVE IMAGE, OR ANY LIKENESS OF ANY THING! THOU SHALT NOT TAKE THE NAME OF THE LORD THY GOD IN VAIN! REMEMBER THE SABBATH DAY, TO KEEP IT HOLY! HONOUR THY FATHER AND THY MOTHER! THOU SHALT NOT KILL! THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT ADULTERY! THOU SHALT NOT STEAL! THOU SHALT NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS AGAINST THY NEIGHBOUR! THOU SHALT NOT COVET! These are commonly known and referred to as the Ten Commandments or the Decalogue. These Ten Commandments serve and stand as the foundation of obedience before the Lord—Ten Commandments which Jesus the Christ would later summarize and condense into two distinct commandments. [As a side note, I would dare say that the fruit worth of repentance are loving the Lord our God with everything that is within us and loving our neighbor as ourselves]. It was there at the foot of the mountain in the presence of the consuming fire the Lord revealed to the children of Israel the fruit of the salvation they experienced at the Red Sea and the deliverance they experienced in Egypt. FRUIT CONFIRMING DELIVERANCE! FRUIT CONFIRMING SALVATION! It wasn’t enough for the Lord to deliver the children of Israel from their slavery, their bondage, their oppression! It wasn’t enough for the Lord to demonstrate His salvation at the Red Sea by allowing them to pass through the waters, while using those same waters to destroy their enemies and adversaries. The Lord had to bring the children of Israel to the mountain of God in the wilderness, for it was there at the mountain where He they would experience this baptism of fire—this baptism of fire which confirms the first baptism of water. I believe the waters of the Red Sea prepared the children of Israel for the fire upon the mountain—a fire which absolutely petrified, frightened and terrified them. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are afraid of the same fire as the children of Israel were afraid of. Do we find ourselves standing aloof and standing afar off from the baptism of fire which reveals and brings forth the fruits worthy of repentance? The baptism of water is directly connected to repentance and salvation, while the baptism of fire is directly connected to holiness and sanctification.
The prophet Jeremiah declared unto the house of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem that if they returned unto the Lord, and if they put away their abominations out of His sight, then they would not remove. The Lord of hosts invited and called the house of Judah to “break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart.” The prophet Hosea also has a similar message to the house of israel when he called them to “sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you. Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way” (Hosea 10:12-13). The prophet Joel has a similar message which is recorded in the second chapter of the prophetic book bearing his name—“Therefore also now, saith the Lord, Turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil” (Joel 2:12-13). In this hour and in this generation the Lord of hosts is calling us to a similar place—the place of breaking up our fallow ground, the place of sowing not among thorns, and the place of circumcision ourselves to the Lord. Consider what a great and powerful invitation is found in the fourteenth verse of this same chapter—“O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy fain thoughts lodge within thee?” Oh how this same question is being asked of countless men and women today in this generation. The Lord is even right now calling us to break up our fallow ground, to circumcise ourselves to the Lord, and to wash our heart from wickedness. Are we willing to draw near and approach the fire which works for our sanctification and which causes the Law of the Lord to be manifested within our hearts and lives? Let us this day draw near to and approach the consuming fire of the Lord, for it is only in direct proportion to our drawing near to that fire we experience the law of the Lord within our hearts and lives.
“MY BOWELS, MY BOWELS! I AM PAINED AT MY VERY HEART; MY HEART MAKETH A NOISE IN ME; I CANNOT HOLD MY PEACE, BECAUSE THOU HAST HEARD, O MY SOUL, THE SOUND OF THE TRUMPET, THE ALARM OF WAR. DESTRUCTION UPON DESTRUCTION IS CRIED; FOR THE WHOLE LAND IS SPOILED: SUDDENLY ARE MY TENTS SPOILED, AND MY CURTAINS IN A MOMENT. HOW LONG SHALL I SEE THE STANDARD, AND HEAR THE SOUND OF THE TRUMPET? This was the place Jeremiah found himself in—a place of desperation and perhaps even helplessness, as he was hearing the sound of the trumpet and the alarm of war. Let us pay close attention to this passage of Scripture and the words of Jeremiah, for I am convinced there is in the land in these Last Days “the sound of the trumpet and the alarm of war.” The Lord is sounding forth the trumpet in the midst of the land, and He is looking for those who are willing to hear this sound and noise, and not only proclaim it, but also respond. The singular and foundational message of this chapter is the response to the sound and the response to the noise that was being heard in the land. There is a sound and an invasion that is being issued in this generation, and the question is not merely whether or not we hear it, but whether or not we are responding to that sound. Are you willing to respond to the sound of the trumpet and the alarm of war? Are you willing to respond to the thunder and lightning upon the mountain which burns with fire? Oh that we would understand the tremendous invitation that is being issued in this generation, and that we would respond with all our hearts—respond and bring forth fruits which are pleasing before the Lord. Oh that we would bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, and the fruit of the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord. Let us come and kneel before the Lord in this generation and ask Him what it is He requires of us. O Lord, what is it you require of us? What then shall we do in this generation? What then shall I do in this generation? What are you asking of me? What are you requiring of me? Grant me the courage, grant me the boldness, grant me the steadfastness to do exactly what and everything you have asked of and required of me with absolutely no reservation, no hesitation and no equivocation.