John the Baptist said, “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. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. (Matthew 3:11-12, ESV)”
Society and culture have a way of molding and shaping us. The desire to be individual, our “own person,” unmoved and unchangeable, is especially encouraged in Western culture.
This passage from Matthew has proved to be especially challenging. How can one be their “own person” if the Holy Spirit moves like a “winnowing fork” in the lives of everyone who has accepted Christ? Maybe, like me, you’re wondering what a winnowing fork is.
According to Webster, to winnow is “to remove the unwanted coverings of seeds from grain by throwing the grain up in the air and letting the wind blow away the unwanted parts.” God’s Holy Spirit works this way in our lives. He wants to remove our “unwanted coverings.”
The other day, I was watching a TED Weekends talk by woman named Ash Beckham. If you search Beckham on Google, you will find that she is a lesbian advocate for the LGBTQ community. However, that does not strip her of the wisdom to speak truth.
“I think we all have closets,” Beckham said. “All a closet is, is a hard conversation.” She went on, “We all live in closets and they may feel safe. At least, safer than what’s on the other side of that door.”
Beckham understands something many of us ignore: we all go through hard situations. No matter what, life will throw us curve balls. The question is: do we hide in the closet, or face the light of day? Do we run from the truth, or do we let the wind blow away our mistakes, misconceptions and missed opportunities?
Sure, it will hurt; but it will heal. The truth is, when we allow the Holy Spirit to transform us, rework us and reestablish us, it is going to require vulnerability. Sometimes, that’s like having to take a Band-Aid off before the cut has completely healed. Remember when our parents would tell us, “You can’t leave the bandage on, your cut needs fresh air and water to heal?”
We are exactly the same way, and God knows it. We all have “chaff” in our life. The dictionary says chaff is “something comparatively worthless; debris separated from the seed in threshing grain.”
We are all made in the image and likeness of God. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (NLT)”
When God is winnowing his most precious creation, human beings—the only creatures who innately resemble their very creator—he is eliminating that which is foreign, unwanted and debilitating.
When the Holy Spirit rids us of our “chaff” we are not becoming less of who we are. In fact, we are becoming more of who we are at our very core: a divine image of our creator.
When God takes his holy creation to the threshing floor, he is reestablishing us as creative, spiritual, communicative, intellectual, relational and morally compassionate beings.
“When we fully grasp what it means to bear God’s image, we are at once struck with the grandeur of our possibilities and the tragedy of our unrealized potential,” Dick Staub, a columnist for RELEVANT Magazine, said.
Step out of your “closet,” allow God, through his Holy Spirit, to remove the “unwanted coverings” that are so shallowly celebrated in our society, that you may become who you are truly created to be.
God intends us to be our own person, unmoved and unchangeable, because we find our identity in that which is unmoving and unchanging. The very God whose sandals John the Baptist was unworthy to carry wants to make you just like himself.