GOD’S GOT THIS

Week 7 – 7.23.17

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John 11:23-27

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

 

Our church body has a publisher called, Northwestern Publishing House.  There are so many resources that it produces for people who want help studying God’s Word and growing in faith.  One of the great resources is a series of books known as the People’s Bible Teachings. Each book in the series addresses a doctrine of the Bible and talks about it in terms that everyone can understand. They’re great books – we have a few in the church library for anyone to check out. All the books are short and simple, except the one titled End Times. This one is twice as long.

When you think about the questions people have about the end of the world, it isn’t really that surprising. When? Where? How? What happens next? There’s a mystery to the end of the world that captures interest. Because of that, many people, even churchgoers and theologians, make their own guesses and interpretations of just what The End will bring. But we’re Lutherans, and if you have picked up on anything during the last 7 weeks, I pray it has been that we stand on this really solid, unshakable ground called, The Holy Scriptures.

Today we want to hear what God says about the Last Day. Now, there’s no way we’ll cover every angle or answer every question. That’s the reason we have Bible study and I encourage you all to follow a Bible reading plan at home. But while we might not be able to get to all the details, there’s one overarching truth that binds them all together: God’s Got This!

Part 1. God’s Got Rescue Waiting for His People

The Bible calls the time of the world from Christ’s Ascension until the end as the “End Times” and “Last Days.” We’re living in them. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul described these days. “Mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:1-5a).

In Matthew 24 Jesus describes the End Times as being filled with wars and rumors of war. Famines, earthquakes, persecution of believers and false prophets. A time when the love of most will grow cold.  But Jesus also says that this time of rampant sin and persecution will come to an end. He said, “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.”

This is the first thing we need to remember about the End Times and the Last Day. Even as our world gets dimmer and darker in sin, God is patiently waiting for his elect. We wonder sometimes why God allows the world to continue, but here is our answer. Imagine a bridge under attack from an advancing army in World War II. The bridge is wired to explode and you have the detonator but there you still have fellow soldiers coming across. Don’t you wait as long as you can until those soldiers are safe before you blow the bridge and cut off the enemy? That’s what God is doing now. He’s waiting, patiently, so that more souls might hear the gospel of Jesus and be rescued for eternity. We have to get it out of our minds that the Last Day is all about judgment. For believers in Jesus Christ, that day is about rescue.

Jesus assures us that the gospel will be preached and spread throughout the whole world to all nations. Satan can rage all he wants, but he cannot be stop God’s plan because he is defeated. Christ crushed Satan’s head on Good Friday and remains in absolute control at God’s right hand. He is using and guiding even all of the evil in the world in such a way that it serves for the good of those who believe in him. As just one evidence of that, look at how many people are here to listen to God’s Word today. In a world where love grows cold, God’s people still gather around his Word.  God’s Got This!

Part 2. God’s Got the End of Our Lives in His Hands

The Bible says that some Christians will still be around to see and experience the End, and it tells us to be ready for it at any time. However, if it works out for us like it has for the vast majority of Christians, we will experience our own personal end before The End. The Bible describes the end of our lives as a temporary separation of body and soul, two things God designed to be united forever. When we die our sinful bodies return to the ground from which mankind first came. Whether we’re embalmed and buried, cremated, or lost at sea our bodies eventually return to dust. But don’t think this is your end. At the moment of death our souls stand before God. The soul who knows Christ as Savior and Lord enters heaven forever. The soul who doesn’t, faces eternal fire in hell. Remember the thief on the cross next to Christ? Jesus told him, “I tell you, TODAY you will be with me in paradise.” One moment we suffer in this world. The next we are with Christ forevermore in paradise. When a believer dies, the Bible helps us understand that God’s Got it all under his control.  It is proper to say they are with him right now, and you can look forward to the same.

That’s really the focus of Jesus’ words here in John 11. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” As believers we don’t fear death because we will never actually experience it. Yes, our bodies will, but we are more than our bodies. By his victory over death on Easter, Jesus made death serve his purpose. It is the tool that God uses to bring his children home. The time between our lives on earth and our lives in heaven will be so seamless that each of us can honestly say, “In Christ, I will never die.”

Part 3. God’s Got Judgment Day All Sorted Out

So if our souls are already in heaven, then what is the Last Day all about? There are many Christians today that have turned the Bible’s teaching about Judgment Day into something very complex and confusing. They look for a rapture when believers will be taken away bodily into heaven. Or they expect a special time of tribulation or multiple returns of Jesus from heaven. Some expect a thousand years of peace on earth with the true church ruling in glorious power. Trying to make sense of all the different ideas  that are out there is enough to make a person dizzy.

But what the Bible actually says is much more straightforward. The Bible says that the Day is coming soon, though we don’t know specifically, when Jesus will appear in the clouds with the trumpet blasts of angels in a manner so powerful and glorious that he will be seen all around the world. The Bible says the angels will gather all the believers and separate them from the unbelievers. On the Last Day the dead will rise, both believers and unbelievers. Bodies will be reunited with souls. Believers who are still alive will be reunited with believers from the past and we will all be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord. The bodies of all believers will be transformed in an instant into glorious bodies that are ready for the perfection of heaven.

The unbelievers raised on the Last Day will stand with unbelievers living at the time and there will be a final judgment of all people, the living and the dead. Remarkably, the Bible says that believers, in addition to being judged themselves, will also participate with God in the judgment in some way.

And on the Last Day there will be a literal falling apart of the universe. See, this place has been marred by sin, so at the Last Day God will rid all creation of sin.  And these events will terrify and horrify the unbelievers. They will burst into tears and attempt to flee, but there will be no escape. But believers will stand up and lift up their heads because they know their redemption is drawing near. The world will be remade, a new heavens and a new earth.  God’s Got This!

Part 4. God’s Got Eternity

And then after the end comes eternity, a concept so foreign to us bound by time that the very thought of it makes my head spin. Not just a long time, but a never-ending time.

There are two sides to eternity, and no matter how you might break it up, it is not pleasant to think about one of those sides.  Eternity for unbelievers will be spent in banishment from the grace and blessing of God. The Bible describes hell as being “in torment” and “in agony in…fire” (Luke 16:23-24), a place “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48), and where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12). All of this is meant to give us a taste of what eternal banishment from God is like. Whatever you imagine hell might be, it is far, far worse.

As unpleasant as it is to think about, we must think about it, because it is going to happen to so many. And God doesn’t want anyone to endure it.  That’s why he has placed his Word in our hearts and on our lips – to tell of his wonderful works, to proclaim his rescue through Christ, to give good news to those who are lost on the road to destruction.

There is another side to eternity, of course, and whatever you imagine heaven might be it is far, far better.  The Bible describes it in two main ways: We will be with God and we will see him face to face, as he really is. Please note this, brothers and sisters. The essence of heaven is not being reunited with your loved ones on earth.  The only thing that matters is being in the presence of the one who gave up everything to save your from hell.  Special relationships that you share on earth cannot compare to the relationship you have with Christ.  In heaven, you will enjoy that completely, perfectly, and fully forever

This paradise will never perish, spoil, or fade.  It is full of everything good and it has zero bad parts.  There will not be one person in heaven who says, “Well, I could think of something better.”  This treasure in heaven has been purchased for you by the blood of Jesus and it is yours by God’s grace alone, through faith in Christ alone.

If God’s Got this, then what is left for us?  That’s simple! Be ready.  Keep your faith active.  Make use of the grace God has given you in his Word and Sacraments so that you are ready for these Last Days, ready for the end of your life, ready for Judgment Day, and ready for eternity with him in heaven.  And whatever happens in life, patiently endure what the Lord allows, knowing that what awaits you on the other side is worth it.

When we talk about the End, God’s got this, and that takes all the fear away.  Amen.

 

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THIRSTY?

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John 4

4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

 

A battleground for water, does that sound familiar?  In North Dakota? Absolutely.  Today, that is exactly what God sets before us at this next stop in our Fields of Battle series.

Jesus is at a well in Samaria.  He’s tired and thirsty from traveling. Going north from Judea to Sychar is around 30 miles.  That’s not a one-day hike, and this is desert we’re talking about.  One thing you need in the desert while you’re on a journey is… water!  It makes sense that a very human and tired Jesus would stop at a well for a drink and some rest during lunch hour.

But not at this well. This well, Jacob’s well, is in the middle of Samaria.    Jews tried to avoid Samaria like the plague.  Jews do not associate with Samaritans, we’re told.  To say it plainly, Jews were racist against Samaritans.  They were half breeds, part Jew but part foreigner.  And this was unacceptable to Israelites, the pure descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  They hated Samaria so much that they went around it while traveling north to Galilee.  So a man like Jesus, being from the clan of Judah, a descendant of King David, really wasn’t seen in Samaria all that often.  So this really isn’t the kind of place where Jews would be normally found.   

But that’s not what makes this a field of battle; it’s not the Jew vs. Samaritan fight.  The Savior of the world isn’t a racist. And it’s not a field of battle because Jesus runs into a woman who had such an “interesting” (immoral) past, someone who has different lifestyle choices than Jesus and different religious practices than Jesus.   No, this isn’t a field of battle for those things.  Jesus had to go through Samaria.  This is a field of battle because she’s a thirsty woman struggling unsuccessfully to quench her desire for peace.

Jesus is the one who asks for a drink, but it’s the woman who is really thirsty.  She thought her first husband was her soulmate. Maybe it wasn’t really love but passion and romance, or maybe he got abusive, maybe it was a mix and match of mistakes by both, maybe she was unfaithful.  Who knows the reason?  We know the outcome; it didn’t last.  She had that divorce on her record, and God hates divorce.  It ruins families and the fabric of society.  It draws dividing lines and makes more battles.

She thought the second man was better.  He wasn’t going to be like the first one, but maybe she rushed it.  The third one, maybe she took her time to find the kind of man her family would approve of.  It didn’t matter.  Who knows what it was for each failure?  But 5 marriages went down the drain.  And each time it made her realize just how thirsty for peace and fulfillment she was, and how it was always out of her grasp.  Sex, romance, companionship, family, those things can’t quench the heart that is thirsting for peace.

So she gave up on marriage and just started shacking up with another man.  If she couldn’t make a commitment work, then she would just do whatever she needed to get what she wanted.  But you know what? This woman was still thirsty. That’s why he had to be there in Samaria, where Jews just didn’t go.  He had this field of battle by a well, a battle of thirst, a battle of what the law does to us and what the promise does for us.

Do you know what that’s like?  Do you know what happens in the battle of the law vs. the promise?  Do you know what it’s like to make poor choices because you are thirsty for peace, thirsty for love, thirsty to fit in, thirsty for success, or thirsty for fulfillment?  Have you ever compromised on what God says because you were more interested in your own desires?  Like this woman, she had given up on marriage but she still wanted a man in her life.  Her own desires were more important than anything else.  Being thirsty can make a person do desperate things like that.

Now you haven’t gone through 5 marriages, but we sometimes make the same desperate compromises. What kinds of compromises are they?  “As long as I don’t live together with my boyfriend or girlfriend, we can do pretty much whatever we want, and no one will know.”  “I might have a foul mouth, but at least I don’t struggle with drinking or drugs.” Sometimes it gets a bit more desperate. “I’ll try anything to cover up my mistakes.  If I have to lie, I will.  If I have to drag others down, I will.  If I have to carry a heavy load of guilt, I have enough strength.”  Whatever it is, we try to find ways to quench our thirst.

But the law doesn’t allow that, does it?  The law never makes anyone – from a train wreck of a woman who had given up on marriage to people like us – the law never brings peace, fulfillment, or contentment.  The law makes our thirsty souls desperately aware of just how bad our condition is.  The law says you are just as immoral as this woman even if you haven’t sifted through men like her just by the kinds of thoughts you might have.  The law says your foul mouth makes you foul to God.  The law says you can’t hide mistakes with lies, cover ups, or ignorance.  The law says you are thirsty and the search for water is never-ending and never-satisfying.

Jesus wanted the woman to acknowledge this.  Do you see how Jesus whittles away to get to it?  First, he asks for a drink.  When she is confused that a Jewish man would ask a Samaritan woman, Jesus says, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”  He is trying to get her to see her thirsty situation.  But she doesn’t see it.  She only sees her own thoughts and desires.  Jesus says this physical water isn’t what you need.  You need living water.  She still doesn’t get it.  She thinks not having to make the trip to the well will help her.

So Jesus takes it a step farther. “Go, call your husband and come back.”  She responds trying to cover up her failures, but she doesn’t realize the stranger talking to her knows everything.  This is why he’s at the well.  As her Savior, he loves this woman and wants her to see just how thirsty she is.  And so he says something that hurts.  He lets her taste the truth.  Sometimes when you love someone, you have to hurt them to help them.  It’s like a spanking.  Or it’s like taking a teenager’s cell phone away.  You love your child so you do something that will hurt them now, knowing it helps in the long run.

But she is still trying to find answers to her questions.  All she cares about is herself.  And the law doesn’t help people who only care about themselves.  It continues to make them thirsty for more.  Now, the question isn’t about water or a well.  Now, that she thinks she is talking to a powerful prophet, she wants to ask about the right rules of worship.  “We like this mountain in Samaria where, back in the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they built altars here for worship, but Jews keep saying the only place to truly worship is in the Temple.”

That’s like the person who says, “I can worship on my own.”  Or the one who says, “I like to worship God by enjoying his creation.”  Or some who say, “The only thing the church cares about is money.”  Or there’s people who say, “I like God, the Bible, and all that, but I know it’s not that popular at school or at work.  I’ll just be a Sunday Christian and God will understand.” Anyone who talks this way is trying to quench their own desires.  They are fixated on themselves and their own rules.

And that doesn’t work.  Do you know what happens to people who try to make compromises on what God says?  Do you know what happens when we try to fit in with the world?  Do you know what happens when we try to quench our thirst in our own ways?  The law crushes us.

That’s where this woman is at.  When Jesus says, worship is not about the building or the place but worship is about truth and it is done in spirit (the truth of God in his Word and the spiritual faith in God’s promises), that’s where she finally reaches that critical point.  “Someone is coming.  He’s the Messiah.  He’s the one who has answers.  He’s the one who will quench my thirst.”

That’s why Jesus was at the well that day, for a battle of the law vs. the promise.  The law leaves people thirsty and dying.  The law exposes us to the point where we have nothing to hide and nowhere to go.  The only thing we can do is throw our hands up in anguish, saying, “Someone has to figure this out!  I’m lost.  I’m thirsty. I’m dying. Someone needs to save me from this.”

Jesus says, “I, the one speaking to you – I am he.”  He says he’s the one for the job to fix our thirsting soul’s problem, because he has living water.  It’s not the kind of water that quenches earthly thirsts – like people who are looking for peace on earth, success in their career, contentment in their family, fulfillment in their marriage.  He does give those blessings, but those blessings flow from the living water not the other way around.

The law makes us thirsty like this woman, and Jesus has a promise that quenches our spirit.  Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.  Jesus decided that he would do everything to make this water ours.  He would come here, he would make the full payment, and then he would distribute it without bias and favoritism but with love and compassion for all, even people like this woman, who live a thirsty life.  That is for whom Jesus came, the thirsty.

His promise is that his water will satisfy and sustain us not just for a lifetime but for eternity.  And he can make that promise, because his life didn’t end here on earth in a tomb.  He is the living one forever.  And so this water that he gives last just as long, for eternity.  Faith in Jesus will refresh our thirsty souls forever.

Jesus’ promise gives us this eternal faith.  And do you know where our faith is watered?  It’s not on a specific ancient mountain.  It’s not in a tabernacle, temple, or cathedral.  It’s here.  Here God has his truth for us.  Here we are in the presence of God.  That’s how we are starting each service during lent, with those words, “we have come into God’s presence.”  It’s not because of this building, it’s because God has his truth for us in his word.  With this truth, our faith is watered and will never be thirsty.  Our spirit will be with the Lord now and forever.

Jesus is here right now with us just like he was at the well.  He is quenching our thirsty souls with his living water.  Do you know what happens after Jesus tells the woman who he is?  The guy who wrote this down for us under inspiration from the Spirit happened to be there.  John was one of the disciples who had gone into Sychar to get food.  Well, he came back with the other disciples to eat with Jesus.  They saw this woman, and this is what John writes down, “leaving her water jar, the woman went back to town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.  Could this be the Messiah?’”

Jesus’ promise got to work in her right away.  His living water quenched her thirsty soul.  And the thing is when a thirsty person gets a drink, it changes things.  They aren’t thirsty anymore.  In fact, it can make such an impact that they tell other thirsty people where to get water.  If you have ever been thirsty on a hike, people will tell you where the water is.  That’s what this woman did.  And it didn’t take her time to get a degree or go through a seminar.  It was natural.  “My thirsty soul isn’t thirsty anymore, I can tell this to other people so they won’t be thirsty like I was.”

Brothers and sisters, if you are weary and worn down by life.  If your soul is thirsting for water, Jesus has a promise for you.  He has the living water that gets rid of your thirst forever.  You might know someone who needs some of his water.  Don’t be afraid to pass it on.  It’s a lifesaver.  Just ask that woman at the field of battle by the well.  Amen.

 

We Didn’t Start the Fire.

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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.”

 

 

I love the Olympics.  I’ve said that before.  I’ll say it every 2 years.  Winter Games, Summer Games it doesn’t matter.  I remember as a kid wearing a helmet and putting a cardboard box over a sled to make it feel like bobsled.  I did all sorts of sports with family and friends trying to be just like an Olympian. Even though I’m older now, I still love watching the different competitions where athletes at the top of their discipline from all over the world duke it out for gold, silver, or bronze.

But there’s something wrong with the Olympic Games.  The drama of the competition will always be fantastic, but these games can never deliver the things so many are looking for.  The Olympics want to be a testament to humanity.  The Olympics are supposed to bring us together and show us how great we can all be when we work together and compete in this beautiful, thrilling way.  The Olympics try to replace ill will and create optimism that our world is a good place filled with talented people from every tribe, language, and people.

It doesn’t work.  For starters, there’s the whole losing thing.  That doesn’t help a nation.  Sure, it’s great just to be a part of this global event, but I don’t know if losing has ever brought goodwill even if it is something seemingly minute like badminton, diving or handball.  An athlete or team feels the sting of defeat and so too the hopes of a nation fall. I mean, I’m kind of bummed out when I watch an American lose.  And what about the countless stories we hear about someone coming back for redemption, to finally bring home the medal they failed to earn?  That fire is burning all over these games.

Then, there are the scandals.  This swimmer is doping.  That outcome is questionable.  This nation is plagued with war.  That nation is steeped in corruption.  And the city of Rio itself proves that the less-fortunate are often ignored.  That kind of fire rages on spreading around the world. And so the Olympics prove to be helpless in bringing the peace they preach.

We’ve seen it happen before.  And really we don’t need the Olympics to notice.  These sports just put it on center stage for the whole world to see.  While peace and unity are missing out, the fire rages on.  Our proud spirit of humanity is powerless to put it out.  This world cannot extinguish the spreading divisiveness and engulfing selfishness.

But that’s why Jesus came, right?  He is the Prince of Peace.  Wherever Jesus makes his presence known, peace rains down its soothing tranquility, right? Wherever he is proclaimed that is where the fire is extinguished, right?  If the Olympics cannot provide peace and unity, then the calm and compassion Savior of the nations can.  If only we can get his good news on the podium, then peace will prevail. That’s the Jesus that so many are looking for.  That’s the Jesus that will get this world back on track.

But that’s not the Jesus that shows up in this Warning series.  Instead, the Jesus that is speaking today isn’t getting rid of the fire; he’s not bringing peace.  That’s where Billy Joel comes into the discussion.  The title of one of his number one hits from 1989 is WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE.  That title fits the situation we’re talking about today perfectly.  Listen to what Jesus says to those who are looking for him to settle disputes and unify the world, “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.  Jesus pierces the Olympic heart of unity.  Jesus dashes the beauty-pageant dreams of world peace.

Now, Jesus is not saying he wants quarrels, hatred, rage, and selfish pride to engulf the world.  That would be a misinterpretation.  The angels were not mistaken at Christmas when they announced “peace on earth.”  But Jesus is the Prince of Peace only by his standard, not the world’s.  It goes against all of Scripture to say Jesus brought sin into the world.  But because of him and his message, some people will be enraged.  The thing is Jesus didn’t come here to be the agent for social reform.  He came to be the eternal Savior.  Where stubborn hearts remain transfixed with making this world a utopia, there the gospel of Jesus will blow it up.  Where people are promoting religious unity by compromising on some of God’s Word or simply ignoring some parts of it, there Jesus’ truth will divide.  Where selfish hearts want to remain in sin, there Jesus will kindle a fire.  Where people are held up as the ones who can make a difference, there Jesus will ignite a blaze.  Where people fiercely cling to the proud dreams of our own goodness and the arrogant determination to pursue self-chosen ways, there no peace exists with God. Human nature loves to unite for the common good, but nothing good can come from pursuing a peace that originates from us.  We are tainted.  We are unable to bring such peace and unity.  To everyone who thinks we can make this world a better place, to everyone who wants to work so hard for unity here and now, and to everyone who promotes a religious potpourri Jesus warns that his message is a consuming fire.

And so this fire is not talking about sin.  It’s not describing sufferings.  Instead this is the judgment that Jesus brings to those who are against him, who ignore him, or who don’t like some of the things his Word has to say.  His judgment will spread like wildfire on them.

This fire that Jesus brings will not only be out there in our world or in here between visible churches, but also within our families as well! “From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, 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.”

That brings up a good discussion point.  What’s more important to you, peace in your family or peace with Jesus?  It doesn’t always come to that, but sometimes it can and does.  Are you ready to stand on the solid foundation of Jesus or does your family mean more to you.  Today, Jesus’ answer is strikingly clear: you need peace with him more than you need a great relationship with your kids or your parents.

So here’s a couple take-aways from Jesus’ warning to you, parents: You don’t need to be your kid’s friend.  Your job is not to make your kids happy every day, all day.  I was in the Walmart checkout line this week and overheard a girl tell her mom, “Give me some money.  Mom, I want money to go play those games.”  And I noticed that the mother gave her some money.  Your job as a parent is not to provide the things your kids are begging for.  Your God-given responsibility is to raise your children as God’s children.  That means you will say no.  That means you will not try to be friends.  You’ll be a consistent, humble, and loving parent.  That means you will discipline your children the way God describes it in Hebrews 12 (the Second Reading this week).  You will be parents who love your kids the way the Lord loves you.  And when you fail, repentance and forgiveness will fill you up to start again.

There are a couple take ways for all of us who have parents.  As children we can respect and honor our parents as the representatives God has chosen for us.  We can learn from the Christ-like example we see and hear from our parents.  Kids, we can see God-fearing discipline is a valuable tool to train us in the way of the Lord.  How could a child ever hate a parent who loves to them enough to correct, rebuke, and encourage the way God wants them to?

But as Jesus warns us today, it won’t always be peaceful.  When the topic of Jesus, the Bible, or faith comes up a house may be torn apart.  A father or mother may not be diligent in the kind of discipline that Jesus teaches.  Not every parent makes it clear from their words and actions how much Christ matters. (We’re talking about eternity here; nothing is as important as that.)  A son or daughter might not always appreciate the discipline they receive.  Not every child stays on the path that Christian parents have taught and modeled. Not every parent or child cares about sin and repentance.  The lures and pleasures or this world take hold.  The priorities change.  And that sin takes a toll on the family in much the same way a fire ruins fields and homes.

Sometimes the division will happen because one parent tries, with words and actions, to enact a Christ-like home, while the other one doesn’t.  One parent listens to Jesus and sticks to the pure teachings of God’s Word and the other one has itching ears that are listening to the ways of this world. What do you think will happen to children who see two different examples?  The house will be divided.

And all of this happens in a family because of Jesus.  We didn’t start the fire.  For all those who listen to Jesus in faith his fire is purifying, getting rid of all the impurities. But for all those who do not appreciate Jesus and his Word his fire is consuming, engulfing their whole lives.

Do you like these warnings?  Is this the kind of thing we want to hear from our Savior?  Can this warning really be a good thing for us?  To a lot of people, this kind of Jesus is unacceptable.  To a lot of people Jesus needs to be all about peace, love, and harmony.  Anything divisive is undesirable.  The world wants a peace-making, unity-creating Jesus.

Well, Jesus wants something to be crystal clear today: his love for this world does not create world peace.  His love for this world saves people from this world.  Anyone who is interested in world peace is going to feel the heat of Jesus’ fire.  See, Jesus came to overcome the world so that we would have a new, eternal home.  Jesus is the only way, and the only place we can have true and lasting peace is with him.

So, I gotta ask: are we ready to endure this fiery division that Jesus brings?  Even when it gets personal?  Even when it shows itself not just on our TV screens but in our homes or even our hearts?  What in the world would convince us to that Jesus is worth it?  What would make us love a Savior who wants to kindle this fire?

Because we know what he endured for us.  Jesus said, “I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!”  Jesus uses the term “baptism” to describe the sufferings that would pour over and wrap around him. He was going to face the fiery judgment of God in our place.  The innocent one would take the guilty verdict so that we could have peace with God.  And so Jesus went to the cross.  He felt the flames. He finished the work of forgiveness, life, and salvation so that our utopia would be eternal and not a couple weeks every 2 years.

This life of faith that is filled with fires and divisions is totally worth it because we don’t have to go through the baptism of suffering Jesus endured.  Instead our baptism is the purifying waters that wash away our sins and daily drown out the sinful nature’s power.  We live with faith in Jesus because we know he is not the enemy of real peace for us, or our family, or church family, or the world.  He is the enemy of every truce our human hearts want to sign with sin.  He is the enemy of the every evil alliance the devil forges disguising it as world peace.

You know, until Jesus comes back the fire might get hot as it burns to purge our hearts from everything that hinders our peace with him and one another.  That’s a good thing.  We don’t have to run away from it.  We don’t have fear the flames.  Our joy is not here. Our peace is not seeing all these nations get along during the Olympics.  Our unity is not from this world.  It’s from Jesus.  It’s his love and forgiveness.  It’s his life, death, and resurrection.  There is even more good news when Jesus says he’s brings a fire and division. When Jesus spoke about this fire it was an expression of his love that refuses to trade true eternal pace for temporary outward smiles and ceasefires.  His fire does no damage to repentant, believing hearts. Instead, his fire yields lasting peace in paradise.

I think it’s clear that Jesus is not encouraging you to get into fights with people over the Bible, but rather that you aren’t afraid to speak the truth in love.  It’s ok if people hate you because you believe in Jesus.  No, you aren’t a terrible parent when you stand on the foundation of God’s Word.  You are not doing anything wrong as a son or daughter when you try to tell your parents or in-laws how much your Father in heaven has done for you. You’re not a bad citizen when you emphasize sin and grace more than political leanings and laws.

When flames erupt in those situations, we didn’t start the fire.  Jesus did… for our unending unity, for our heavenly family, and for our eternal peace.

Amen.