What if I told you that Jesus didn’t just come to bring peace…but division?
When we think about the baby Jesus this time of year, we often think of words like peace.
We sing about him being tender and mild…
He lays down his sweet head…
After all, the prophet Isaiah said he’d be the Prince of Peace…
When the angels showed up the shepherds on that first Christmas, they said “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests”
I swear, everywhere I look this time of year, people hang up decorations that say, joy, hope, and peace!
But what if I told you that Jesus didn’t just come to bring peace…but division?
If you think I’m crazy, or am making this up, let’s open up the Bible together and find out.
We are going verse by verse through the Book of Luke in the Bible.
One of the 4 books in Scripture about the teachings and life of Jesus
And we’re going to look at one of his teachings today (so this is Jesus talking).
(Luke 12:49-53) – NIV
49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 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.”
Merry Christmas J
JESUS IS COMING TO SAVE
Okay, let’s tackle the first 2 verses first…there are some hard things to understand in this one.
Jesus says he has come to bring fire on the earth…and he wishes it was already kindled.
The image of fire in the Bible is typically a symbol of divine judgment.
So why is Jesus anxious for the fire to already be kindled?
There are really two reasons here.
Firstly, the final judgment, at the end of the earth, will lead to a cleansing of all things…when earth will be rid of sin and evil, and we will live in a new heaven and a new earth
…so many scholars believe He may be referring to that.
But secondly, He’s also speaking of the divine judgment that is coming upon Himself.
The wrath of God…for all of our sins is going to come upon Jesus on the cross.
And He’s willing to take on that wrath…but He’s ready to get it over with, right? He wishes it was already kindled.
It’s going to be difficult.
Look at the next verse, verse 50.
He says he’s under constraint until this is all completed….
That means he’s under a heavy burden, with lots of distress.
He has to undergo a baptism, but it’ll be a baptism of judgment
That’s kind of a curious phrase, because we usually only think of water baptism when we hear the word “baptism”
But Jesus has already been baptized in water.
The word baptism means to immerse completely.
And Jesus is going to be completely immersed, submerged, in God’s holy, and fiery judgment on sin.
Because He loves you.
He’s going to die in your place…take the punishment that you deserved…
Even though He feels the heavy burden of it…He will do it for you.
HIS MESSAGE WILL CREATE DIVISION
And then the passage takes an interesting turn.
(Luke 12:51) – NIV
51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.
And Jesus goes on to talk about how families will be divided because of him.
Unless you’ve lived through it, this may feel hard to understand at first glance.
We can actually make a bit more sense of it if we look at Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel of Matthew.
In Matthew 10, Jesus basically says the exact same thing as our passage in Luke 12, but then he expounds on this teaching a bit more by saying:
(Matthew 10:37-38) – NIV
37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
Jesus, because He is the Son of God and died in your place demands full allegiance.
He wants to be #1 in your life.
And when people make Jesus #1, and not their family, or their job, or their government…division occurs.
Many Americans are in dire need of reading the Bible…we need to get it into their hands.
Because to many Americans today, Jesus is simply this tranquil, nice guy who’s spreading peace and love.
In their minds, He’s closer to a hippy than He is the Son of God.
But the real Jesus was polarizing.
People loved Him or hated Him.
Think about this with your mind…
They murdered Jesus.
They got out a hammer, and pounded nails threw his body.
Is anyone doing that to “hippy Jesus” who spreads peace and love and tells everyone to live how they want to live?
See, in actuality, people have a hard time with Jesus because He demands that He, the Son of God, the Savior, be their #1
I was talking to my kids the other day about the persecution that is breaking out in China again.
In many places, they’re forbidding children to attend church until they’re 18…and thus have been “properly educated” by the Chinese government on such matters
They’re shutting down house churches
I read an article two weeks ago about how they’re even monitoring cell phone texting now for Christian words
You get the idea of where this is going.
And my kids were like, “But, why would they be against Christians and Jesus? Who would be against Jesus?”
I’m not sure they understood my history lesson on totalitarianism, but no dictator wants any part of a people who have a higher allegiance than himself.
And thus, Jesus brings division in societies like that.
But this can happen even on a family level…right here in America
And it’s not that Jesus doesn’t bring a message of peace…
If you accept Him into your life as your savior, He’ll bring a peace in your life like you’ve never known!
But it’s that His message of peace often creates a division between those who accept it, and those who don’t.
Let me give you some examples of how this often works out in families…because that’s the example that Jesus uses in verses 52-53.
He says that families will be divided.
Father against son
Daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.
Okay, so first example…let’s say that you are a new believer, and you study the Bible, and you discover that nowhere in the Bible does it mention infants being baptized…
And that baptism is actually something where people should be “immersed in water” after they start their own personal relationship with Christ.
But you know that if you get baptized as an adult, it will offend your parents…who baptized you as an infant.
So what will you choose?
Most people, especially in our conflict-averse, Minnesota-nice culture, choose peace over obedience.
We worship this idol of peace.
And rather than put Jesus, and our loyalty to Him first, we put peace with our family members first.
But remember what Jesus said:
(Matthew 10:37-38) – NIV
37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Following Him, will create division sometimes, and not peace
Let me give you another example:
Let’s say your teenage child, or even adult child, is making poor choices with their life.
They’re really going down the wrong path, but they think that it’s fine.
Maybe even society thinks it’s fine…
But you know that they’re veering from God’s will.
But you also know…that if you talk to them about it, and plead with them to obey God instead of the culture…it will create division.
They might even break relationship with you.
What do we do?
Most of us…we choose our idol of peace.
Many Christian parents choose to take some awkward middle ground where they say nothing
And others tell their children that they support their actions…whatever they may be…
And they choose peace…over Jesus.
Even though Jesus SAID…if you love me, it will end creating division in some places
That’s not His hope…His hope is that everyone follows Him…and finds life.
But he IS describing a fact of life…if He’s going to be your #1
WILL YOU CHOOSE PEACE OF JESUS?
The truth is, all of us are going to come across moments that will reveal whom we love more…Jesus…or peace.
And the truth is…most of us will only ever after suffer minor discomfort if we choose Jesus over peace.
I think I mentioned a couple of months ago that this summer I read the fantastic biography of Nabeel Qureshi, entitled “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.”
Qureshi was a VERY devout Muslim who group up in a loving Muslim home.
But after a friend shared Christ with Him, he began to research his own faith and also Christianity, and after years of research, he began to contemplate surrendering his life to Christ.
But he knew, that doing so would basically cut him off from his family…permanently.
And not only so, it would bring great shame on his parents in their Islamic community.
His decision would bring nothing like peace…but serious, permanent, division.
And it was an extremely painful decision, but He knew that his first allegiance was to the Son of God…who died for Him…and so He gave his life to Jesus.
Most of us don’t face choices that require that level of sacrifice, and yet, we are still so drawn to this idol of peace.
Perhaps it’s our aversion to conflict here in the Midwest.
Or perhaps it’s because we don’t understand the kind of allegiance that Jesus is looking for.
Nowadays, people miss church, house groups, etc. all the time. All the time.
If we attend 30 weeks a year…that’s a win.
For the first 1,950 years of Christianity, that’s not what it looked like.
You never missed church.
It was obvious to the culture, that spiritual things took priority.
But it’s not obvious anymore.
And so if you’ve signed your kid up for hockey, or soccer, or marching band, or whatever…
And church or youth group or you name it falls on the same day…
We prioritize our commitment to the team, to the coach…rather than our commitment to Christ.
It’s a complex issue, but at least one of the reasons we do that is because it would be a loss of peace to not be at the game or event.
The coach would be upset, teammates might be upset, other parents might be upset.
And we crave peace…worship it even…
So we choose our human relationships…over our relationship with Christ.
And thus, the world can’t even tell we’re different.
But remember the words of Scripture!
Look at them. Verse 51
Jesus says that He’s come to bring division.
We SHOULD look different, friends.
If we’re not marching to a different beat of priorities, how will they ever notice us?
In the Matthew passage, right after Jesus says that anyone who loves their earthly relationships more than their relationship with him…is not worthy of Him…
(Matthew 10:38) - NIV
38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
To take up your cross is to “die” to what’s easy…to stop living for what would just “keep the peace”
It’s to put to death the things you want to do, and to live for what He wants you to do.
But it’s confusing because when we’re talking about issues that affect our family, we say, “But isn’t family really important?”
Isn’t my relationship with my spouse or parents important?
Isn’t the development of our kids important?
That they learn teamwork, and cooperation, and leadership in their activities?
Isn’t that important?
Or, let me give you yet another example where two things at once seem important
What if you feel God calling you to go on a missions trip?
We’re going to announce the dates of our Rwanda Trip in 3 weeks.
What if you feel God calling you to go?
But then your spouse says, “I don’t know…I don’t think you should leave. I’ll be alone with the kids. Think about our family”
Isn’t that important??
Or you think, “God’s calling me to go, but I’d have to leave my kids…and don’t they need me??”
What should you do?
Who should be first in your life?
We say He is…but when the rubber hits the road…is He??
Pastor David Guzik says it this way:
The greatest danger of idolatry comes not from what is bad, but from what is good – like love in family relationships. The greatest danger to the best comes from second best. – David Guzik
I’ve mentioned a few times this year that the best book I’ve read in years, perhaps ever, is “To the Golden Shore,” the story of the first American Missionary, Adoniram Judson.
He, and the missionaries that followed him in the early 1800’s, brought the Gospel to Burma, which is now Myanmar
And as the missionaries began to settle in there, their children tragically kept dying.
As infants…as 2, 3, & 4 year olds.
The diseases were new to them, the conditions were incredibly difficult, and there weren’t doctors within hundreds of miles.
As so they realized that if the rest of their children were ever to survive, they had 2 options
Option #1: They could abandon the mission, and all go home as a family
But then, the millions of people there would likely perish without the Gospel
Or, Options #2: they could send their children home on a ship, and have them be raised the next 10 years or so by their grandparents, while the missionaries stayed in Burma to spread the Gospel
What would you do?
I think most of us would choose peace. Safety. That’s our new American way.
But it wasn’t the way of the first American missionaries.
They tearfully sent their kids home.
And today there are millions (MILLIONS!) of Burmese Christians because of their decision
And many of those kids that got sent home became missionaries, and pastors, and leaders themselves.
Many of us will face this “idol of peace” even this week over Christmas.
Do we talk to our brother-in-law about Christ?
Or our uncle, or grandmother that doesn’t know Him?
Do we invite them to church?
Do we share the Gospel?
Most of us decide not to…because…well, we would lose peace in our family if we did…
…peace that seems to, quite often, be hanging by a thread, in most of our families.
But think eternally, like many of these people I’m telling you stories about today.
Let me speak the spiritual truth that we know inside of us, but we don’t like to say out loud because it disturbs even the peace in our mind…
Is temporary peace in your family really, truly better than your family member suffering in hell for all of eternity?
Than why do we choose it over and over again?
Because we’re making our life choices around the idol of peace…not our savior.
Our savior…whom if we really follow…will sometimes bring division into our lives.
And you can only bring true life…and true peace to another person…if you’re willing to risk division.
Where is it in your life that you need to choose obedience over peace?
CHOOSE OBEDIENCE OVER PEACE
Joseph Stowell, who was a long-time president of Moody Bible Institute, once told of a conversation he had with an old pastor in the former Soviet Union
The pastor said that during Stalin’s tyrannical reign, two KGB agents came to him and said, “We’ll take care of you. You stay the pastor of that church, but once a week give us a report on every one of these Christians. Work for us, and we’ll keep you safe.'
If he didn’t listen to those communist agents, he would be putting his own life at risk.
He might be removed from his family…maybe even killed.
What would you do?
Obey God…and His word?
Or would you “clutch the idol of peace?”
The pastor answered them, "I can't do that to God, and I can't do that to this flock.”
So they repaid him by sending him to a prison camp in Siberia.
And for ten years…he endured the forced labor and the cold
But he did find other Christians in the camp, and God used these believers to fulfill his purposes.
The pastor said, "I was a carpenter building towns for Stalin,"
But while they were out working, he and the other Christians encouraged the believers in the towns of Siberia and helped them start churches.
In fact, today, there are hundreds of churches in Siberia as a result of these prisoners being spread around the region
We have to trust in God’s plan of obedience…even if it’s hard.
Even if it removes peace from our life and relationships.
I don’t want to stand up here and say, “If you obey God, it’ll make your family life better.”
Yeah, in many cases, it will.
Especially if everyone in the situation is following Christ
Your marriage might really improve that way.
Or a friendship
But in some cases, it won’t improve.
Your obedience to God will actually cause division.
But if you’re only coming to God so that He’ll improve your marriage and family, don’t you see that your “marriage and family” is your god, not…God.
Or peace and happiness is your god?
And please, remember who you’re choosing.
Because if you walk out of here and say, “Okay, I guess I’ll work on obeying this ‘demanding God’ in heaven…”
…If you do that, you’ve missed the point passage.
We’re able to be people who put Jesus first…because He put us first.
He loves us with a love that far surpasses even the love our family has for us.
I sometimes ask my kids, “Who loves you the most?”
And they’ll correctly say, “Not you…God!”
And I’ll say, “Right.”
Jesus has a love for you that endured the very fire of God’s judgment.
The fire of God can burn up pretty much anything…except Jesus’ love for you!
You might have to give up some things to follow Him.
But I guarantee you that you’ll never give up more than what He gave up to save you.
You’ll never suffer more than He did for you.
And it’s when you understand how much He was willing to suffer for you.
When you understand how deep His love is for you…
That you’re willing to suffer for Him…to put your “idol of peace” aside…
And put Him first.
As a way to remember His love for us, this morning we’re going to take communion together.
Here is how the Gospel author Luke describes that Last Supper of Jesus
(Luke 22:19-20) – NIV
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
His love for you was so great that He let his body be broken and his blood poured out…for you.
And so we want to partake in this…so we can remember His love.
The Bible also says that whenever we take communion that we:
1) Ought not to do it in vain. To only do it if we truly believe it. And if you’re still just seeking, that’s ok. You’re on a journey.
2) Don’t do it just as a ritual…but that we truly stop, pause, and remember what He did. Let it hit your heart.
There are 2 tables in the front, 2 in the back….with pieces of bread and a bowl of juice. When you’re ready, you can get up take an individual piece of bread and dip it in the juice.
And when you’re ready, at any time during this final song, you can go back and take communion.
If you would like to pray while you’re up, we encourage you to do so.
Our prayer team will be in the back to pray for you as well
We really just want you to encounter God during our service.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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