First, let’s wade into a couple of verses about water, and see what we can see:
- Luke 5:4: When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
What deep water is Jesus calling you to move into, so you can let down your nets for a catch?
- John 2:1-12: (Jesus turns water into wine): The master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” (John 2:9 and 10)
What areas of your life are like the water – not bad, but merely ordinary and utilitarian – but that Jesus is ready to transform into something remarkable, that will bless you and renew the joy in the lives of your loved ones?
- John 7:38: Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
That’s why we will never thirst, as he told the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4: because the spring of living water welling up to eternal life is inside us!
- John 13:5: After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
Imagine if you spent the day hiking on a dusty path in sandals, and when you returned home, your favourite pop star or political figure was waiting for you. And then, they did what Jesus did – got some water and a towel and washed your grimy, stinky, callused feet. How honoured – and uncomfortable – would that make you feel? Would you think it inappropriate and unnecessary for them to lower themselves to such humble service? How much moreso is it for the creator of the universe to do that for His disciples? And what does that say about what He’s inviting us to do for each other?
- John 19:34: Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.
Thanks in part to U2 and B.B. King, I’m able to put myself in the sandals of the soldier who ‘pierced His side’ and I’m horrified at what I/we have done. But the water that flows in this verse symbolizes for me the spring of living water from John 4 and 7, and in that moment, ‘I’ve seen love conquer the great divide.’
- John 21:7: Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.
Walk, swim or run, Peter is not going to miss this chance to connect with Jesus. The next time you waffle on whether to bother going to church that day, put yourself in Peter’s flippers for a moment before you decide if it’s worth the effort.
- Acts 8:36: As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?”
What indeed? Can it really be that easy? Yes, yes it is – even for us non-eunuchs.
- 1 Corinthians 3:6: I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.
Apparently, none of us has to do all of the vineyard work ourselves, because gardening with God is a team sport. Are you a planter? A waterer? Are you good at getting rid of weeds? Or maybe, like me, your gift lies in the spreading of (ahem) organic fertilizer. If you’re not sure, ask God for help in discerning what your gardening gifts are, and break out your work gloves!
OK, that’s enough about water for now. Let’s turn our attention to fire.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Acts 2:1-4:When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Tongues of fire. That imagery stirs my soul in a way that can’t be fully explored in this exercise in drive-by blogging. For more on this, check out 2012’s Earth, Wind and Fire.
Today, let’s spend some time on one of the most memorable (because it’s scary) references to fire, Revelation 20:14-15:
‘Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.’
Is it like a regular water lake with a film of gasoline on the top, so the surface is on fire, but the water underneath is just water? Even that’s a pretty agonizing choice: drown below – except you never die because you’re already dead; this is the second death, remember – or burn above – also without end.
Or is it a different kind of lake entirely, where there’s no water at all, but flames instead?
Not sure how to picture that, but I sure hope I’ll never have to see it for myself.
Or will I?
At the other end of the New Testament in Matthew 3, John the Baptist – the original Fire and Brimstone preacher – talks a fair bit about a spiritual fire that might be the same one that John the Apostle wrote about in Revelation:
‘The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’ – Matthew 3:10-12
Not only does John talk about both fire and water here (making this passage doubly relevant to this series), he also talks about fire as something good when it’s what we’re baptized in, in Verse 11, and also something bad when it’s used to burn up the bad fruit in Verse 10 and the chaff in Verse 12. It’s tempting to assume that Verse 10 and 12 are talking about Hellfire, and Verse 11 speaks of Heavenfire (to coin a term), but I wonder…
Except for Jesus Himself, everybody’s life contains some chaff, and yields some bad fruit now and then. So is it possible that John refers the same fire in both verses? That we all go through an unquenchable Consuming Fire, but if you’re coated with the fire-resistance of the Holy Spirit, the flames baptize and refine you, burning away the chaff and bad fruit and leaving only the real you – the you you were made to be? If so, it probably hurts, but in a good way, because you know it’s good for you and the pain is only short term.
But people who haven’t invited the Spirit into their lives have no such protection, and for them, the unquenchable fire is also unbearable.
Maybe. But I think I’m speculating above my pay grade here, so I should probably move on before I get into more trouble.
As we said at the start of this series, fire and water are neither to be trifled with, nor are they to be avoided. Stay too far from fire and we freeze; get too close and we burn. Too little water and we dehydrate; too much and we drown.
Fire and water are both essential, and they’re both a little scary.
Sort of like God.
Peace be with you.
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