Scripture: Luke 12:49-56
Theme: Jesus' Fire
Proposition: Jesus came to bring fire - A fire that is: 1. Focused 2. Divinely Ignited 3. Righteous 4. Experiential
Grace and peace from God our Father and from His Son Jesus Christ who came to take away the sins of the world.
"Jesus said, 'I came to cast fire upon the earth, and would that it were already kindled I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished'" Luke 12:49-50
As you read and meditate on the Bible you quickly discover that there are many various types of scripture passages. Some passages bring you amazement and joy. Others share some great spiritual adventure. Many bring great comfort and peace to our souls. We always enjoy reading those passages. But then there are passages like the one we have before us this morning. It is a passage that is quite aggressive and forceful. It is a passage than can prove to be rather difficult to hear, understand and apply to our lives. Many times when we come across one of these type of passages we are tempted to either skip them or gloss over them.
But should we? Should we just skip or skim over the difficult passages that we find in the Bible? Should we only look at those that bring comfort, adventure or joy? I don't think so. The Bible is clear when it tells us that all scripture has been "breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." (2 Timothy 3:16). St. Luke wrote these words of Jesus for us to read them, learn from them and apply their truths to our lives.
That being said, these are not easy words to hear. We must approach them with a great deal of care. This passage has the potential if used wrongly to create a great deal of unnecessary anxiety and concern. Sadly, many have used this passage to promote division and discord and that was never Jesus' intention.
Therefore, we need to follow the leading and guidance of God's Holy Spirit. We need to open our minds, our hearts and our souls and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the wonderful truths of this passage. With that in mind, let's focus for a few minutes our attention on the initial part of verse 49 where we find Jesus saying these words:
"I came to cast fire upon the earth, and would that it were already kindled..."
I believe that the Holy Spirit would like for us to look at what Jesus was referring to when he stated that He came to bring FIRE upon the earth. I would like for us to answer the question - What does Jesus mean by what we could call "JESUS FIRE" this morning?
I. I believe that Jesus is telling us first of all that
Jesus Fire is a FOCUSED FIRE
When Jesus shared these words I believe that he wanted his disciples to understand that the fire that he was bringing to our world is a finely FOCUSED FIRE. Therefore, Jesus fire will never look like, act like or be some kind of wildfire. It will never burn out of control. Jesus fire is a fire that has been designed with built in controls and perimeters.
To our human eyes, Jesus fire may appear at times untamed and unwieldy but that is because we lack the proper perspective. We can be assured this morning that the fire that Jesus is bringing to our lives is a fire that Jesus will always have under his control. We do not have to be concerned about this fire taking on a power of its own. We do not have to be afraid that it will do something destructive or harmful. It is Jesus fire. What else does this passage teach us? It teaches us that:
a. Jesus fire is earth focused. It is not a fire that has been designed to overtake all of creation. It is not a fire that is designed for the other planets of our solar system or to any other planets in our galaxy. It is a fire that is specifically designed for our earth and it is a fire that Jesus passionately wanted to bring into our world.
b. Jesus fire is also human focused. In verses 52 and 53 we see Jesus speaking about families - human families. Jesus speaks of sons and fathers, mothers and daughters, mother-in-laws and daughters in law. Each of those relationships of course deals with very intimate human interactions. Jesus fire is not designed or intended for animals, plants or for any other life on earth. Jesus fire is only for humans who were made in the image of God.
So, first of all, we are to understand that Jesus fire is both earth focused and human focused. It is a fire that will therefore touch the hearts, minds and souls of humans.
Now, why is that important? It's important because it means that this fire is not the type of fire that St. John writes about in the book of Revelations. It is not the type of fire that is to come and destroy all life here on earth. It is not the fire that John reveals to us in Revelation chapter eight when the Seven Trumpet begin to sound.
The goal of Jesus fire is not upheaval, catastrophe or destruction. Jesus fire brings just the opposite. It brings peace, unity and holiness. We don't have to experience any anxiety or fear concerning this fire. Jesus fire is a fire that is focused on our earth and is a fire that is focused on transforming the hearts, minds and souls of humanity for the better.
II. Secondly, we see that Jesus fire is a DIVINELY IGNITED FIRE
Jesus fire is not a fire that mystically materializes out of nowhere. It is not a fire that is ignited by humanity. Jesus fire:
a. Comes directly down from heaven above.
Let's go back to verse 49. See those words - "I came". Those words - "I CAME" reminds us of Jesus' divinity and incarnation. The Scriptures are clear in revealing to us Jesus' true identity and origin. Each of the Gospels take great pleasure in telling us that Jesus is God's only begotten Son. That Jesus came down from Heaven to redeem, renew and restore man into His image.
Jesus came to our earth with a mission and a purpose. Part of that mission and purpose involves this fire that we find in verse 49. Like Jesus this fire does not have its origin here on earth. Jesus Fire is Heaven Fire.
b. Jesus fire comes directly from the heart of Jesus.
It's a fire that comes out of Jesus' holy love. Holy agape love ignites Jesus fire. Please don't miss this revelation. It's crucial to the understanding of this particular passage. We must always understand that Jesus fire comes from the center of Jesus' love for our world and for us humans in particular. Otherwise we may be led to believe that the sole purpose of Jesus fire purpose is judgment. We may be led to believe that Jesus Fire only purpose is divide and separate. That would be a mistake. Jesus fire is a fire full of love, mercy and grace.
Think back to 2 Chronicles chapter seven. King Solomon has just finished his prayer dedicating the Temple to the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY. Immediately following that prayer the Bible tells us that God's Holy Fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offerings and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the Temple. The glory was so great that the priests could not enter the house of the Lord. And when the people from Israel witnessed the fire coming down and the glory coming down they bowed down with their faces to the ground and worshipped and gave thanks.
God's fire that day at the Temple is the same fire that earlier we see in Exodus 40 with Moses and the tabernacle. It's the fire of redemption and renewal. It's the fire of love. It's a fire that brings warmth and grace. It's the same fire that we see in 2 Kings 18 with the Prophet Elijah. It's a fire that symbolizes God's Holy Presence. It is a fire that comes directly from the heart of God. It's not a fire designed to harm, kill or destroy. It is a fire that brings acceptance, mercy and grace.
So, we need to always understand first of all that Jesus fire is a focused fire. Secondly, we need to understand that Jesus fire is a Divinely ignited fire that comes directly from his heart of love, mercy and grace.
III. Thirdly, we see Jesus fire is a Fire of Righteousness
+Jesus fire is a Focused fire.
+Jesus fire is a Divinely Ignited fire.
And now, we see that Jesus fire is a Righteous Fire.
a. Jesus fire is a Righteous Fire that purifies and removes the dross of everything around it. In Jesus' time, fire was a normal cleansing and purifying agent, especially when it came to the purification of gold or silver. In fact, fire was the preferable method used by most refiners. They would sit next to a hot fire with their ore of gold or silver in a crucible. Slowly, they would stir the molten metal and carefully remove the impurities or dross that rose to the top. After a while they would be able to produce gold or silver that was pure. Refining was a difficult and at times dangerous task as the temperatures would have to reach over 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. Refiner had to be people of great skill and courage.
This morning, there is no better refiner of our souls than Jesus our Savior and Lord. Jesus fire is far more effective than any refiner's fire for our hearts, minds and souls. When we place ourselves in the crucible of Jesus we will be made righteous, pure and holy.
In the Gospel of Matthew chapter three, Matthew records these words of John the Baptist:
"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)
Luke puts it this way in chapter 3:16ff
"John answered them all, saying, I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am unworthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."
b. Jesus fire is a fire that will also purge and partition. It is here that our passage causes people the most concern and anxiety. They read this whole passage and begin to think that Jesus came only to bring division and separation. They read this passage and think that the real reason for Jesus fire is to divide us. They believe that Jesus preaches a message of intolerance and narrow-mindedness. But that is not the case.
Some years ago, Dr. Morris Weigelt writing in the Herald of Holiness magazine shared a conversation that he had with a friend outside of the Church of the Nazarene. His friend was amazed with the respect that Nazarenes had for the holiness lifestyle along with their strong stand against sin. His friend wanted to commend the Church of the Nazarene for taking such a high position on holiness. Dr. Weigelt writes that he deeply appreciated the kindness of his friend's statement but he went on to tell his friend that the reason that Nazarenes hold such a strong standard against sin and such a high view of holiness is because Jesus took those positions. The Church of the Nazarene was simply following the heart of Jesus.
Dr. Weigelt's keen observation is spot on and it transcends any denomination or non-denominational group of people. This morning we are all to have a high regard for a life of progressive holiness. At the same time we are to take a strong stand against sin, both personal and corporate. Not because we think its a good thing but because our Savior and LORD took a strong stance against sin.
In fact, Jesus takes such a strong stand against sin that he sends his fire to purify and purge our souls of sin. It is Jesus intention that our hearts, our minds and our souls be as pure as possible from the effects and affects of sin this morning. Jesus calls all of us to walk with him in holiness of heart and life.
However, the truth is that some people choose not to be redeemed or purified. Sadly, they choose to be stained and enslaved in sin. They are similar to the dogs and pigs referred to in Proverbs 26:11. Solomon tells us that when they have been cleaned up they do their best to fill themselves with the same thing that made them sick and cover themselves with the same mud that caused them to get dirty in the first place. They don't want to be transformed. They have been blinded by sin.
As much as it pains us Jesus fire will not only purify and purge but it can cause some partitioning. Not because it is the will of the LORD but because we human decide to be divided and separated for God and from one another. We choose to resist the purification and purging of Jesus fire. Because of that we will see family members at odds with one another and at odds with the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY.
We are at a cross roads here in America. There are many who believe that the Church must lower its standards of holiness and purity. That if we do that then we would be able to reach so many more people. They believe that we should only focus on the love part of Jesus message and forget the purifying and purging message of Jesus fire. They believe that we should preach co-existence, the elimination of gender roles and redefined traditional marriage. They believe that if we would do that then we would see a resurgence of the ranks in our church pews.
However, if one is honest with the LORD, with the WORD and with the leading and teaching of the Holy Spirit then one has to realize that sin and sinful ways have always been sin and sinful ways. We are called to walk in the paths of holiness and not in the paths of societal compromise.
+From Genesis to Revelation there is a single and solitary clarion call concerning that one should worship only the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY. While we can appreciate people who choose not to worship the true God of the Universe we cannot take away the 10 Commandments. We cannot agree to worship false gods. "You shall have no other gods before me."
+ From Genesis to Revelation there is a clarion call what it means to be male and female. While we can appreciate the struggles people experience and we should do all we can to help them we simply cannot reject Genesis 1:27 - "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."
+ From Genesis to Revelation there is a clarion call to what constitutes the bounds of a holy marriage. We don't have to redefine or change what God has already says is holy and just. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall be one flesh." (Genesis 2:24)
This morning we are invited by Jesus to allow his fire to cleanse us and purge us of all unrighteousness. We are called to live an abundant life of progressive holiness.
IV. Finally, we see that Jesus' Fire is an Experiential Fire
a. Jesus fire is to be experienced firsthand.
JESUS FIRE is to be felt emotionally, physically, socially and spiritually. Jesus fire brings us into the very presence of the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY.
If you have ever been to a high mass or to a service designed by the Eastern Orthodox C Church then you might have encountered a service that has all the "smells and bells". Those smells and bells along with the Eucharist, the art and the sculptures all around are merely there as experiential worship assistants. They are there to assist to experience the presence of the LORD - JESUS FIRE. They are to draw us into experiential worship. We may view them as simple rituals or as works of art but we would be missing their intended design. Each one has been carefully placed to bring all our senses - sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste to experience the LORD. There are there to help us experience the thin veil that is between Heaven and Earth. This is Jesus Fire.
It doesn't take long when you are in one of those services to understand that you are in a very different place. The atmosphere is different and the environment is different. Everything is designed to have you experience the LORD in all His Glory and Holiness. Everything is centered around enjoying and experiencing the Presence of the LORD - JESUS FIRE.
The same thing happens when we attend an evangelical or Pentecostal worship service. While these congregations may not have all the smells and bells they have other means to help us experience Jesus fire. From the moment you begin to hear the music you can feel the Holy Spirit moving. Your soul is uplifted in the joyful praise, the exuberant prayers and in the occasional utterances of God's Holy Spirit. It's all designed to help us experience JESUS FIRE.
The same happens when you sit on a Quaker service bench in silence and solitude in total reverence. While a Quaker Service will not have all the smells or bells or even the exuberant praise you will still experience JESUS FIRE. All you have to do is become quiet, open your heart, your mind and soon you will feel the quickening of the Holy Spirit. You will hear the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart, mind and soul drawing you ever so closer to the LORD JESUS. You will experience JESUS FIRE.
So, whether its High Mass, a Pentecostal or a Quaker worship time there is a fine line running through all of them - experience - experiential - worship - praise. There is JESUS FIRE. There is the drawing of our hearts, minds and souls to experience what it means to have Heaven here on earth. When we receive JESUS FIRE we will experience the supernatural. We will be transformed from the inside out. We will be changed. We will be redeemed, renewed and restored into the image of Jesus.
So, what is JESUS FIRE?
a. It's focused fire. It's fire that Jesus focuses on earth and in the hearts, minds and souls of humans
b. It is a divinely ignited fire - coming from the holy agape heart of Jesus Christ our Savior and LORD
c. It is a purifying and purging fire - a fire that removes the dross of sin and enables us to enjoy an abundant life and a progressive walk of holiness
d. It is an experiential fire - one that we are feel, touch, taste, smell and hear the presence of the LORD. It is a fire that is to transform us from the inside out and it is a fire that enable us experience the LORD in so many new ways.
This is the Fire that Jesus wants to cast upon our earth and into our lives. It is the fire that we see in Acts chapters 2 and 4. It is the fire that we see in the heart and lives of the men and women throughout the New Testament. It is the fire that we can experience this morning!
As we close, let me ask you -
Today, do we have JESUS FIRE?
Do we possess the fire that will radically transform our lives and the lives of all those around us?
Have we received God's cleansing today?
Are we enjoying the warmth of the Holy Spirit in our lives?
Are we living the abundant life and enjoying a progressive walk of holiness?
If not, Jesus is here to give you His Fire.
We can receive JESUS FIRE in our lives, in our homes and in the LORD's Church. Jesus came to bring His Fire - today receive it, allow it to purify you, transform you and bring you into the Presence of the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY!
SONG - I REMEMBER WHEN THE FIRE FELL
or Sanctus Real - On Fire (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Y5hLwwW7vM)
or Set Me On Fire (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teXkA7GiaLg)