The most important decision you will ever make is to trust Jesus Christ, asking him to forgive your sins, and inviting him to be the Lord of your life. How long do you have? Make the decision now.
Illustration from FB posting from my friend Yolande Petersen: An amazing chapter of a rather dramatic story unfolded this week. Earlier in the semester, one of my students, "Emily," left the classroom, presumably to use the rest room. When the class concluded, she hadn't returned, so her classmate, "Lynn" packed up her things and volunteered to wait until she returned. As I was locking up the room, Emily appeared, in tears and with bleeding wrist. Lynn and I rushed her to the nurse (just downstairs from us).
While she was being tended to, Lynn suggested that I check the restroom, where Emily might have left something behind. On the way there, I was frantically accosted by "Sue," a student from a different class, who is also a believer. She told me, "I noticed shoes facing the wrong way, and Jesus told me to ask her how she was doing. She told me she was OK, but He told me not to let her go, so I kept asking if she was sure she was OK, and she ran out of the stall." I was able to assure Sue that Emily was receiving medical attention. And we both continued to pray.
Last week, Sue shared with me that she saw "the shoes" and approached Emily to ask how she was doing. Rather than being defensive, Emily thanked her for saving her life and shared something that brought Sue and me to tears. Shortly after "the incident," another friend of Emily's shared the Lord with her and brought her to church. It was there that she gave her life over to Christ.
Emily's problems (including ones that contributed to "the attempt") have not magically disappeared, but she has someone to walk beside her and carry her through them. Our Lord is great, and He cares for people in so many different ways. And I'm grateful that He let Sue and me see a little more of the story.
The earth is on Fire! Is this a surprising statement from Jesus? “I have come to bring fire on the earth!” Jesus goes on to say, “I wish it were already kindled,” ~ the way I understand it is that when Jesus spoke those words he had not yet gone to the cross, he had not yet died, or risen from the grave. Jesus had not yet ascended into heaven. The Holy Spirit had not yet been sent on the day of Pentecost. But we now live on this side of those watershed moments of history. Now the earth is on fire! Most people, and I agree, think that Luke 12:50 is referring to the cross of Christ. READ.
The earth is now on fire. Jesus no longer has any constraints. We live in a great time of unrest, a great time of decision making, a great time when men and women and young people must make a decision. The earth is on fire. We are in free fall, tumbling towards death. It’s time to pull the cord. It’s time to embrace Christ.
Fire is cleansing, destroying the chaff and leaving the gold. Fire reduces to basics. I think that is part of what Jesus means when he says he came to set the earth on fire. Fire is about being passionate, you’ve heard the phrase, a fire in my belly, and fire is cleansing. It’s time to make a decision. Jesus goes on to talk about divisions within families, not that he wants civil war or is looking for friends to go to war with friends, but rather, people will make different choices in how to go forward. The only control you have is the decision you make.
Luke 12:51 is another shocking statement. READ. You must decide what you are going to do with Jesus Christ. Now is the time. What does Jesus means by division? Some will accept and some will reject. Your house is on fire and you need to flee, what are you going to take with you because you only got one suitcase. No decision is a decision. Ambiguity is a decision. Keeping your options open is a decision. The earth is on fire, what is most important, how do you respond, what is your passion? The only life saving decision is Jesus Christ. A quote by Frederick Douglas makes you think: “It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.” Jesus said, “I have come to bring fire on the earth.”
When Sally and I were first married we went to Hope Community Church in Lynnwood. Annie’s father, Pastor George Teshera, was the pastor. One of the people who attended was Clayton D. Clayton had a good idea: he wanted to organize a Sunday School class to teach about the cults ~ each Sunday the major teachings of different religions and how they were different from the foundational truths of Christianity. Clayton asked Sally and me if we could help him teach. We gratefully accepted. After we accepted, Clayton made me mad. Somehow, some way, Clayton managed to distance himself from teaching and he put the whole thing on Sally and me. Grrrrr…. As I look back now. It was a wonderful experience. Everyone knows that a teacher learns more than the students. Each week Sally and I studied the teachings of the cults and influential religions. We learned so many fascinating things. One of the things that stuck out: almost all cults and world religions do something with Jesus Christ. Jesus cannot be ignored. Some say he is a prophet of God. Others that he is only a man. One says he paved the way for us to become what he was and that we will become gods. Most admire Jesus wisdom. Most conclude he is good, although some say he was a maniac. Christianity is alone in saying Jesus died on the cross to forgive sins ~ the cults say it is a shame, he didn’t have to die, or he died for love. It is hard to stay neutral to Christ, he is either who he says he is or he is not. Is he divine or is he not? Did he come to save sinners or is he a mere moral teacher?
It is only Christianity that believes Jesus Christ is Lord, when he was born he is the eternal God that took on human flesh, that he lived to show us the way of salvation, that he died for our sins taking our place in death, that he was resurrected from the dead paving the way for our resurrection, that he ascended into heaven, that he sent the Holy Spirit to guide us, convict us, to live within us, and that he is coming again to bring judgment and salvation to humankind, some to eternal life and others to eternal death.
You either embrace Christ or explain him away. You either worship him or water him down. Jesus Christ is love, but he is also about forgiveness, salvation, transformation, discipleship, obedience. He lived a perfect life, and went to the cross to forgive sins. I went to a restaurant once and unknown to me somebody else paid the bill. Only Jesus can pay the bill for our sins, for he died taking our place on the cross. Jesus Christ alone has the power, the passion and the love to save sinners, to shower us with grace, to give us eternal life. Praise be to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
There is fire on the earth. Jesus came to bring division, meaning it is time to take sides. That is what the division is about. Some will embrace Christ and others will reject. The coming of Jesus Christ draws a line that forces us to take sides (READ Luke 12:52-53). To face fire is a catastrophic, life-changing event. Here is a strange story (by Robert Fulghum) that tells of a fire crew that broke into a house with smoke pouring out of the window. They found a man in a smoldering bed. After the man was rescued and the mattress doused, they asked, “How did this happen?” The man replied, “I don’t know. It was on fire when I lay down on it.” Who in their right mind would lie down on a burning mattress? You can’t be passive about fire. You have to deal with it or it will consume you! The earth is on fire. Have you noticed? You cannot be passive about it. Today we are seeing protests that many people don’t get, we see world leaders panicking, we see establishments in turmoil, we see questions abound. We all agree there are deep problems/ divisions in the world, the question is what do we do about it. Only a fool would lay down on a burning mattress, we have to decide.
Jesus’ coming is like a fire. You can ignore it, lay down on the burning bed, and you will die, or you can pull the rip cord, ask Jesus to save you, and the fire will purify the chaff out of your life. The one thing you cannot do is to be neutral. Jesus draws a line that forces us to take sides.
Luke 12:54-59 says we had better be quick to get on the side of Jesus. Luke 12:54-56 uses an illustration of weather. We plan our day according to the weather, so we ought to map out our lives according to the signs of the times. READ.
In Israel, a cloud from the west came from the Mediterranean Sea bringing rain. A south wind came in off the Sinai desert and meant a hot day. Jesus then calls them hypocrites because they are able to discern the weather, but they fail to discern the significance of Jesus’ presence among them. We hear a weather forecast and plan our day. If we hear that the Son of God has come, bringing salvation to all who believe, should we not respond by immediately embracing Him?
The next section emphasizes the need to get on Jesus’ side quickly, before it is too late. How long do I have to pull the cord on the emergency chute, the young soldier asked, “The rest of your life” said the sergeant. READ Luke 12:57-59. Get your life right NOW… do not put it off. Settle your relationship with God before you enter court. Can’t you see the world is spiraling out of control? Can’t you see the unrest, the tension? If we are quick to settle an unfavorable case against us in civil court, how much more ought we to settle our eternal destiny in Christ before it is too late.
Jesus asks the crowd, “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?” Jesus is saying THINK.
My father was sometimes a man of few words. As a kid if I did something stupid I can still hear his voice: THINK….. Jesus is saying you don’t have to blindly follow the world, you don’t need to panic. You don’t need to follow the crowd. THINK. Like the skydiver, we may be in a free fall plunging towards certain death without a parachute, but Christ is waiting for us to pull on the cord. Consider the claims of Christ, ask Jesus Christ to forgive you, and invite Him into your life.
The reason Jesus says to judge for yourselves is because most people follow the crowd./// This is why Jesus says he came to bring division ~ when you accept Jesus some of your friends may not, some of your family may not be believers.
The illustration Jesus uses asks your and me to imagine going to court with the person who has a case against me. The assumption is that my opponent is right so that if the case reaches the judge, I will be thrown in prison and will never get out. In the same way, God has a case against every sinner. We owe Him for our debt of sin. Jesus’ death on the cross is the only acceptable settlement. If we discerned the times, we would know that now is the day of salvation. It is true that we have the rest of our lives to get right with God, but it is also true that the earth is on fire and the time may be very short. God is offering to settle in full His claim with any sinner who will trust in Jesus Christ. But if we do not settle, there will be no escape on the day of judgment.
You would think every person would be quick to embrace the cross of Christ. But the Bible shows that while many receive Christ and find mercy, many others reject God’s offer. They don’t want to admit they are sinners deserving God’s wrath. Jesus came to divide those who embrace his grace and those who reject his grace. Those who reject don’t want to admit they can do nothing to make up for their own sins.
The earth is on fire. During a training session for soldiers who were about to make their first parachute jump, the sergeant explained how to open the reserve chute if the main chute didn’t open. A private nervously raised his hand and asked, “Sergeant, if my main chute doesn’t open, how long do I have to pull my reserve?” The sergeant looked directly into the young private’s eyes and replied, “The rest of your life, soldier. The rest of your life.”
The earth is on fire! Now is the time to believe in Jesus Christ. Amen.