Peace or Division?

Thursday, February 19, 2015, 5:55 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Luke 12:49-53 (NASB).

“I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Came to Cast Fire

Jesus had just finished speaking to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. He spoke with them about how they appeared clean on the outside but inside they were they were full of greed, robbery, and wickedness. They were big on tithing but short on justice and love for God. They loved feeling important and being publicly recognized. They weighed people down with all sorts of external requirements which did nothing to change people’s hearts. As well, they honored those who killed the prophets - who were God’s servants and messengers. So, God was holding them and their generation accountable for the shed blood of innocent lives. And, lastly, not only did they did not possess the key of knowledge that would give them eternal life with God in heaven, but they tried to hinder those who were entering. As a result of what Jesus told them, they plotted against him to try to trap him.

A little while later Jesus addressed his thoughts to his disciples concerning the Pharisees. He warned them against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. And, then he told them of a time coming when all that has been covered up will be revealed, and when all lies will be exposed for what they are. Words that have been spoken in secret, i.e. primarily with the purpose and intent to deceive and to plot evil, it would appear, will be proclaimed on the housetops. I can’t help but think here of all the words that are spoken via email and private messaging and chats and text messages that are so vulnerable to exposure, as well as how even our phone calls can be monitored and recordings made of conversations we have had.

And, then Jesus spoke words of encouragement and comfort to his disciples. They were not to fear those who could kill their physical bodies, for after they had killed them, they could do them no more harm. Instead, they were to walk in the fear of the Lord – to show him honor, value, respect, esteem, reverence, loyalty, devotion, commitment and obedience. He is the only one who has the power to do harm to people once their bodies are dead, for he has the power and the authority to send people to hell. And, yet, he encouraged them that they are not forgotten by God and that God is completely sovereign over every aspect of their lives, down to numbering of the very hairs on their heads. We are valuable to God!

Then he talked about how if we confess him before men, he will confess us before the angels of God, but if we deny him before men, we will be denied before the angels of God. This is obviously not speaking of making a verbal confession, though that is certainly part of it, for many make professions of what they do not truly possess. We confess or deny Jesus Christ by our very lives – our thoughts, words, behaviors, and deeds. As well, Jesus also spoke of not focusing our attention and value on the things of this world but rather we should be seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness, and he will provide all that we need. He spoke, too, of making sure we are ready to meet Jesus Christ when he comes again and that we are busy doing the work of the Lord to which he has called us when he returns.

It was in this context that Jesus said he came to cast fire on the earth, and he wished it were already kindled. So, what is the context? The context is one that addresses the subjects of judgment on sin, warnings against sinning and warnings of judgment, confronting sin, hypocrisy, calling for changed hearts, the fear of the Lord, hell, damnation, loyalty, devotion, obedience, encouragement, hope, healing, humility, faith, priorities, greed, idolatry, generosity, hardship, persecution, martyrdom, God’s kingdom work, last days, and Jesus coming again, and of us being ready to meet him when he comes, and of us being his faithful servants in doing his kingdom work up until the day he returns.

So, the fire that Jesus came to cast upon the earth is both the cleansing fire we experience in regeneration (our salvation), and in revival (renewal), as well as it represents the cleansing fire of judgment on the earth, which is meant to correct wrong, expose lies, and to purify hearts, as well as it is intended to judge and to destroy what is evil.

A Baptism to Undergo

But first he had a baptism to undergo. He was speaking of his suffering and death on the cross that had to take place for us to be saved of our sins, so we could be set free from the punishment of damnation in hell, and free from slavery to sin, and so we would be free to walk in his righteousness. He had to die so that we could be given the hope of eternal life with him in glory. He had to die so that we would be free to no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave himself up for us (See 2 Co. 5:15). He had to die so that he could forgive us of our sins, and so we could be restored to a right relationship with God Almighty. His death had to take place first before all of these other things could come into being.

In order for us to be saved, which is only by God’s grace to us and via the shed blood of Christ on the cross for our sins, we must believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives. To believe in him means that we die with Christ to our old lives of living for sin and self, that we are changed in heart and mind of the Spirit of God, and that we are given new lives in Christ to be lived in the power of the Spirit within us in walking daily in Christ’s righteousness and holiness. In order for us to be saved, we must surrender our wills to the will of the Father in heaven, submit to the cross of Christ in our lives, and follow Jesus Christ in obedience wherever he leads us, and to be and to do whatever he has for us. It does not mean we will live in sinless perfection from this point on but that our goal will be to please our Lord in every way, and that we will not continue in willful sin against God.

A Divided House

I hear so many people these days describing Jesus as someone who just went around doing good, loving on people, accepting people right where they are, not judging anyone, and teaching peace and harmony all the time, as though he was one who came to this earth to bring about world peace and unity among all peoples and all religions.

He did teach that we should not war against one another and that we should live at peace with all people, as much as it depends on us, but never with the thought in mind of us becoming people pleasers or compromisers of faith in order to not make waves, and so everyone will like us. He did not try to not offend people with the truth of the gospel just so their feelings would not be hurt and so they would feel accepted. He did heal the sick and raise the dead and he cast out demons and he comforted the mournful and sorrowful. He did have tremendous compassion on the hurting, the lonely, the afflicted, the persecuted, the sick and the injured. And, yet he spoke the truth boldly, confronted sin in sinful human beings, and he chastised those who were living hypocritically or who lacked faith or who served Satan’s purposes in casting doubt on Jesus’ words. And, that is what got him killed.

If we are to be like Jesus, which we are, then should we not emulate him? Why is that we have this idea that being a Christian means we just go around “blessing” people via good works but we shy away from talking with them about the gospel of their salvation so as not to offend them or to come on too strongly? Why is that we have this idea that we have to develop relationships with the unsaved people of this world over long periods of time, perhaps even years, before we can earn the right to talk with them about Jesus? What happens if they die in that period of time? Then what? Why is it we have this idea that we should dilute the gospel message or only share the non-offensive parts of it, at least initially, so that we don’t scare people away with the truth? Why is it that we think Jesus didn’t judge people? He did! All the time! Why is it we think Jesus just accepted people where they were? Didn’t he regularly confront them with their sin and call them to repentance? Yes, he did! Oh, why can’t we be more like Jesus and less like the world?

When we live our lives after the model of Jesus Christ and his ministry on this earth, all in the power, strength and working of the Holy Spirit within us, then we should be sharing the hard truths of the Word of God and of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it should offend people, because the cross is an offense to those who are perishing. When we are no longer conformed to the ways of this sinful world, and we come out from the world and are separate, and we live holy lives unlike this sinful world because we are becoming like Christ, then it should be obvious to the world around us and they should hate us. Even the ungodly within our churches should be offended by us and by our message and they should hate us as they hated Christ. Even those within our own households should oppose us and mistreat us and perhaps even be among those who persecute and put us to death.

Jesus didn’t come to earth to make peace with the world. The world is at enmity with him. He didn’t come to make nice with them, but to confront them with their sin, to tell them the truth about their eternal destiny, and to call them to repentance, faith and obedience to Jesus Christ and to his teachings (instructions/commandments). And, we should do likewise. He didn’t come to make life easier for us, either, free from complications, persecutions, hardship or sword. In fact, we are destined for them. What he said here is that when we commit our lives to him, to follow him in surrender and obedience, and to be his servants and witnesses, that even the people of our own families will turn against us and will hate us. Yet, we should rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of the gospel and the name of Jesus, and for the sake of the salvation of souls for eternity.

Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee / Henry Van Dyke / Beethoven / MacMillan

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!

Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blest,
Wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother, all who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us, brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward in the triumph song of life.