Sunday August 27, 2006 | Greg Boyd
The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Jesus’ kingdom-bringing life was so powerful because Jesus was continually being guided by the Holy Spirit. In the same way, it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus’ followers can demonstrate the beauty of God’s kingdom. As we seek to remove “clutter” from our busy lives, we can experience more and more of the Holy Spirit's transforming influence daily.
In the New Testament, Jesus of Nazareth is understood to be the Jewish Messiah, a God-sent deliverer who would lead God’s people into freedom and new life. With this understanding, it was known that the Holy Spirit of God empowered and authorized Jesus’ ministry. In other words, Jesus’ kingdom-bringing life was so powerful because Jesus was continually being lead by the Holy Spirit. It is no wonder that Jesus, after his resurrection, specifically told his followers that he would send the Holy Spirit to them and that they should wait until his presence came (Acts 1:1-5). It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus’ followers can bring about their own unique contribution to God’s kingdom. This is how Jesus’ followers put God’s beauty on display for the whole world.
The “baptism of the Holy Spirit” of which Luke 3:15-16 speaks is an important phrase. It is not the same as simply believing in Jesus as Lord or having some specific gift, such as speaking in tongues. This “baptism” occurs when human beings are open to the Holy Spirit filling their lives with power for character development and service. As Jesus’ followers, we are to continuously pray for this filling in our lives, even to the point where our daily lives are heavily influenced by the Spirit’s leading. The author of Ephesians uses an analogy about wine to demonstrate a point about being filled with the Spirit. Usually, when people are drunk on wine, they tend to do things that they wouldn’t normally do because the wine influences their thoughts and actions. Unfortunately, much of this type of influence can have negative outcomes. Being filled with the Spirit also influences people to do things that they wouldn’t normally do…but in a positive way that allows God’s kingdom to grow against the kingdom of darkness. And just like it’s possible to stay drunk by always drinking wine, it’s possible to stay spiritually empowered by always being filled with God’s Spirit.
One of the primary things that work against being continually filled with God’s spirit is “clutter.” In a large sense, this “clutter” is whatever exists in our lives that can take away space for focusing clearly on God. It can exist in forms from simple distraction (where certain life issues take our attention away from God briefly) to powerful idolatry (where we get a sense of meaning and worth from things other than God). There are three kinds of clutter: heart-oriented, mind-oriented, and body-oriented. Heart clutter happens when our desires and affections are directed towards anything other than God to the point that we “get life” from that thing. Mind clutter happens when our thoughts and feelings speak so loudly to us that we can’t even hear God’s voice clearly. Body clutter happens when our lives are so filled with busyness and activity that we cannot make any time at all for God. All of these forms of clutter have the common effect of decreasing a person’s ability to live full of God’s Spirit. The more clutter that is in our lives, the less room there is for God to do his transforming work in us.
How can we work against this clutter? One possible way is by us being very intentional in paying attention to ways in which the Holy Spirit may be speaking to us daily. The Holy Spirit rarely forces his presence on us; it usually comes as much more of a gentle nudging or impression. This gentle nature of the Spirit makes it very easy for our doubts and second-guessing to become avenues of clutter. For this reason, it is important for us to be willing to prayerfully step out in faith at times, without overanalyzing the matter. This is not to say that we shouldn’t be wise in what we do or operate without any discernment at all. It’s just important to realize that there is a possibility of drowning out the voice of the Spirit as we try to direct our own steps. When we act with all this in mind, we can see more and more “kingdom coincidences” where God can use our gifts to help display the beauty of his kingdom!