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Fire & Water

October 9, 2022

Fire & Water

Passage: Luke 12:49-59
Service Type:


LUKE 12:49-59

Main Point: Jesus’ return is close at hand, so get right with God while you still can, even if it costs you the closest relationships you have. 


If you are new to River City, we are going through the book of Luke verse by verse, chapter by chapter, and we’re about halfway through. Right now, in chapter 12, we are listening in on a lengthy conversation Jesus is having with his disciples as a huge crowd gathers around them. In this conversation, Jesus has warned his disciples against hypocrisy, of acting in a certain way so as to make sure certain people think well of you; Jesus has warned his disciples against greed or covetousness, of living tight-fisted with their possessions, living worried about making sure they’ll have enough, and whatnot.


Then last week, in the first part of what Lucy read this morning, we listened to Jesus start to establish his return. He hasn’t died, risen again, or ascended yet, but he’s already preparing his disciples for his return, telling them to be ready for it. Just because it might be a while, don’t get lazy. Don’t get caught up in the things of this world. Don’t make yourself at home or get too comfortable here on earth. If you do, your master will show up when you least expect it and demand an account from you – and then it’s too late to do what he wanted you to do while he was gone.


Jesus continues that discussion today, so let’s pray and dive into this together. 


PRAY -  Almighty God, you have spoken to us through Jesus your Son. I pray that now, your holy and written word would be spoken and heard by each of us. Give us ears to hear and hearts to understand, so that we would not ignore or refuse your voice. I pray that today we would all be taught by your powerful Word. 


Father, in the Garden of Eden, the enemy’s tactic was not to prevent your word from being spoken, but to twist and manipulate it. That enemy still prowls around today looking for people to destroy. So I pray that any evil thing that would seek to interrupt or distract or confuse your words today would be bound up and silenced in the name of Jesus. Lord, I pray that this place, these people, and the preaching of your word would be covered today by your presence and by the blood of Christ. 


Through Christ I pray, Amen.


Early on in the creation of a new organization or non-profit or business, owners take time and sometimes a lot of money to spell out what their mission statement is. A mission statement is defined as an action-based statement that declares the purpose of an organization and how they serve their customers. Basically, a mission statement is a short summary of your company's purpose. Here are a couple mission statements from popular companies: 


Google: “To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.” I’d say they’ve been fairly successful, when their company name has become a verb. 

Tesla: “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” “Accelerate” – get it? That’s pretty clever. We won’t get into it this morning whether or not electric cars are actually sustainable energy or not. 

Forbes Magazine: “To convene, curate and cover the most influential leaders and entrepreneurs who are driving change, transforming business and making a significant impact on the world.”

American Red Cross: “To prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.”

Starbucks: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one neighborhood and one horrible, charcoal-tasting, torturously expensive, cup of coffee at a time.” Very inspiring and nurturing there Starbucks. 

River City Church: “To be ambassadors for the glory of God, the supremacy of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit.” 


If Jesus had a mission statement, what would you expect it to be? What would his action-based purpose statement be? 


If all you ever read about Jesus was the occasional Christmas card once a year, you might think his purpose was to bring love, hope, peace, and joy to the world. Maybe it was to heal people and do miracles; To tell people about God’s love for them; Maybe it was to make a way for people to go to heaven when they die; Or if you know the story of the gospel fairly well, you might say his purpose was to die for the sins of mankind. 


Well, here in verse 49, Jesus gives his disciples his mission statement. 


49 “I came to bring fire on the earth,” 


I came to bring fire on the earth. And he’s pretty passionate about it – “I wish it were already burning!” I came to bring fire, and I wish it were over with. The main question of course is, what does he mean by “fire”? 


Not all biblical commentators perfectly agree on what exactly Jesus is referring to here, because in the Old Testament, which would be the only scripture Jesus and his disciples would have had, “fire”could refer to a lot of things. 

  1. In Exodus, you have Moses meeting the Lord in a burning bush; you have the pillar of fire that led the Israelites out of Egypt at night and God coming down on Mt Sinai to give the law, and in all three of those situations, fire meant God was present. Moses even said, “the Lord your God is a consuming fire.” That could be good or bad. Depends who or what is being consumed, right? If he’s angry with your enemies, hey, I’ll help you gather the kindling! But if he’s angry with you, look out! 
  2. Sometimes in the rest of the OT that fire of God’s presence was for purification, as in the Law of Moses and the sacrificial system where, as the fire burned up the sacrifices, it marked the purification for sin. The prophet Isaiah speaks of a refiner’s fire that burns the impurities out of silver or gold to make them pure and therefore more valuable. The prophet Jeremiah refers to God’s word as fire, that breaks hardened hearts and purifies like a forest fire promotes new growth. So fire can refer to purification, something positive and good. 
  3. Most often, though, especially as the OT goes on, the prophets referred more and more to fire in terms of judgment, where it is meant to inflict pain and loss as punishment for sin or condemnation and destruction of his enemies. There are some very bleak pictures painted as to how this fire of God’s wrath will burn against nations who reject him and/or mistreat the people of Israel. 
  4. And then, of course in the New Testament, the book of Acts in particular, at Pentecost fire was a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit


So which one of those descriptions fits the fire Jesus came to earth to bring? Kind of ALL OF THEM! Right?!  Jesus himself is the fire of God’s presence on earth. One of his names as prophesied in Isaiah is Immanuel, which means “God is with us!” 


As Jesus spoke the words of God, the chaff of religious hypocrisy, greed, faithlessness, pretension– all would be exposed for what it is and reduced to stubble while the real stuff of faith – humility, grace, repentance and faith – would be promoted even in prostitutes and Gentiles and Roman soldiers and lepers, bringing life and new growth where deadness had been, making new creations out of those who would believe in him. The apostle John even went so far as to say Jesus is the Word of God! 


These believers, these new creations, would then be filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit after Jesus’ ascension, so that the global Church would be able to do the things Jesus did in every country, every county, every city or town or village, anywhere in the world all at the exact same time. That’s something even Jesus couldn’t do while he was here, which is why he said “You’ll do greater things than I did.” 


So God with us; purify us from sin and dead religion; ignite the power of the Holy Spirit so that the lamps of holiness and good works would be lit in our homes, our workplaces, our schools, our communities, etc. 


HOW will Jesus bring fire on the earth?


50 But I have a baptism to undergo…” So Jesus is going to bring fire by being baptized; immersed in something. 


Once again, thanks to us having the whole Bible, we can quickly understand what Jesus is referring to here, but Jesus’ disciples would be scratching their heads asking, “Didn’t John already baptize you back in chapter 3?” How many times do we need to be baptized? What is Jesus referring to? 


The waters of baptism can refer to judgment and salvation too. In 1 Peter 3, where Peter talks about Noah and the global flood back in Genesis 9, he says that 8 people, Noah and his family, were saved through water from God’s judgment of the flood. And then Peter writes, this is what baptism is all about. 


We would be buried or drowned in God’s judgment too if it weren’t for the ark of grace which is Jesus’ life, death and resurrection that saves us and makes us a new creation. That’s why when we baptize here at RC, we prefer to do immersion, because it better fits the imagery of what’s happening. 


In the same way, Jesus is referring to an immersion that he will undergo. We understand that he means he will be immersed or submerged or baptized in suffering. It’s not going to be a little suffering – he’ll be beaten and whipped within an inch of his life, and then nailed to a cross. And Jesus is clearly not looking forward to it when he adds “… and how it consumes me until it is finished!” 


I’m a fairly non-confrontational guy, sometimes to my detriment, so when I have to have a hard conversation with someone, it consumes me until it is finished. It’s what I think about at night; it’s what I think about when I’m mowing the yard; it’s what I think about when it’s quiet in the car. I imagine Jesus is the same way, where he knows what is just a few weeks away and it’s where his mind is at all the time. Yet, unlike me, knowing exactly what was coming, he was perfectly at peace, never hurried, never anxious, never distracted, never too consumed with the cross that he couldn’t stop and have a conversation, or heal someone. 


But here’s where the fire of judgment comes in. This baptism of suffering will unleash the fire that Jesus came to bring, some of which is the power of God to those who believe, to those who receive him by faith; but some of the fire that is unleashed is the fire of judgment and destruction for those who refuse to acknowledge him as Lord. 


Jesus’ disciples thought there were times that fire should be immediate. They faced a confrontation one time, and they asked Jesus if he would like them to call down fire from heaven – just smoke the bad guys. And Jesus said, knock it off. 


That fire of judgment wouldn’t be enacted immediately, but it also was started, because the cross of Christ is the crossroads of human history.  It’s not as if following Jesus and following the ways of the world are parallel tracks where you can sort of jump back and forth between the two, or have one foot in either track. 


The cross of Christ forces you right or left. You are either saved because Christ took your punishment on the cross, or you will face the wrath of God yourself. You are either following Jesus as a disciple, living for him, or you are opposed to him, living for yourself. You are either united to him, like a branch attached to a tree trunk that produces good fruit, or you are a branch on the ground trying to produce fruit on its own without being attached to the source of life. That branch will be tossed into the fire, Jesus said in John 15. 


And Jesus is not afraid to be brutally honest about what this means: 51 Do you think that I came here to bring peace on the earth?


Well, the immediate answer to anyone reading Luke’s gospel here would probably be, YES! We do think you came to bring peace on earth! That’s what the angels proclaimed when they told the shepherds that the Savior was born: “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to people he favors.” (Luke 2:14) What about Isaiah’s prophecy that the Messiah would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and how about this one... PRINCE OF PEACE.” Then of course, “God loves the world, etc, etc, So yeah, I would say you came to bring peace on earth.” 


Jesus goes, uh… no, actually I came to bring division. 52 From now on, five in one household will be divided: three against two, and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” 


Families will be divided. Homes will have tension over Jesus because one spouse or child chooses to believe and follow while the others don’t. Marriages will have tension because one spouse follows Jesus while the other rejects him openly or rejects him quietly. Parents and children will be separated. Some of you have experienced this firsthand. You know very well the tension between those in your family who have chosen to follow Jesus and those who haven’t. You have lived the tension of wanting them to come to church with you, or at least acknowledge their need for it. You have prayed and prayed for them. You might have even had to endure their snide remarks, or sideways comments about your “holiness.” 


And while you might laugh along with them, it’s hard stuff. It’s tough to know what to do sometimes. Right? The encouragement for you today is that Jesus understands that. In fact, he understands it better than most, because his own family didn’t quite understand who he was either. His brothers messed with him from time to time… they even tried to bail him out of a sticky situation by saying, Sorry, he’s crazy. 


So Jesus gets it. That’s the encouragement. And on some level he does come to bring peace – peace with God for those who believe, which leads to the ability to have peace with others, even those who don’t think or look or believe like you do. But the cross forces you to pick a side. You’re either with him or against him


Charles Spurgeon was one of, if not actually, the world’s most famous preachers in the late 19th century. As a young man he did everything he could to resist the Lord. He knew he was a sinner. Knew he was a rebel to God’s will. But he refused to surrender to Christ. 


But he remembered his mother’s prayers every night for himself and his siblings. “In these prayers, she pleaded with God to extend his saving mercy to her children. Charles remembered that on one occasion she prayed in this way: ‘Now, Lord, if my children go on in their sins, it will not be from ignorance that they perish, and my soul must bear a swift witness against them at the day of judgment if they lay not hold of Christ.’”


In other words, she knew that if Charles stood before Christ, and she were called to the stand as a witness of Charles life and faith, and if Jesus the Judge looked at her and said “Is there any excuse or logical reason you can give me for why your son Charles continued in his sin instead of trusting me for salvation,” She would say “He has no excuse. I told him everything; he has refused you on his own accord,” leaving him to be eternally separated from Christ. 


Charles was 10. And for the next 5 years, the thought of his mother giving that kind of witness smacked him in the face like a ton of bricks even though he continued to refuse to repent of his sin and surrender to Christ. Eliza Spurgeon experienced the division that Jesus is talking about: mother against son, son against mother. 


But she knew Jesus’ words that he would return at any moment, and that each person was responsible to be ready for him, even her 10 year old. And maybe you think, man, that is pretty intense. Maybe a little over the top. But the reality is, if you are a parent or a guardian, or have influence in a child’s life – that is one of the master’s resources and responsibilities that YOU will give an account for when he returns. 


Some things you can say, “we’ll talk about that when you’re older.” But when it comes to things of God, step into it. Like a rookie stepping up to bat against a veteran pitcher, there's a good chance you’re going to foul some off, you might swing and miss, but step into the box. With God’s help, you can do this! If you need resources or ideas on where to start, come see me afterward. I didn’t really intend for this to turn into a sermon on parenting, so apparently God is working in someone’s heart right now in that area. 


Whether you have young children in your life or not, back here in Luke 12, Jesus then turns away from his disciples and addresses the crowds. 54 … “When you see a cloud rising in the west, right away you say, ‘A storm is coming,’ and so it does. 55 And when the south wind is blowing, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. 56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why don’t you know how to interpret this present time? 


Jesus isn’t talking to a crowd of meteorologists who study weather patterns. What he’s saying is that every single one of us has things we’re very knowledgeable  about. We study and we do the research on things we’re interested in. We read books, we read articles, and watch videos. Coaches study game films. Hunters and anglers spend a lot of money on new gear, new calls, new lures, new technology; companies like Starbucks, IKEA, Facebook – they have human behavior down to a science. They know what you will buy before you even know you want it. They have set up their stores, menus, and advertising so that you end up buying what they already knew and planned for you to buy. 


Jesus’ point is that if we’re willing to do that for temporal things like weather and food and sports and, how much more should we be applying ourselves to knowledge and understanding the things of God! How much more should we be studying and readying ourselves for the Lord’s return? If we’re willing to sit in silence and plan and research where exactly you want to be sitting when that big buck walks out from behind the tree, how much more should we be eager to sit in silence and listen to the voice of God so we’re ready when Jesus steps through the clouds? If we’re willing to try new recipes, get our house cleaned up, and decorate our table just right so that we’re ready when the family shows up for Thanksgiving, how much more should we be willing to get our spiritual house in order for when the Lord shows up? 


In verses 57-59, Jesus says the same thing a different way – if you want to avoid a harsh penalty when you are accused of a crime, you try to settle outside of court. You work up a deal with the prosecutor so your punishment is lessened and you don’t put yourself at the mercy of the judge who won’t let you off the hook until every last part of the sentence is served. 


And again, if you’re willing to go to that kind of effort to settle before you have to stand in front of an earthly judge, how much more should you make every effort to settle with God before you stand at the heavenly judgment? How much more should we make every effort to be right with God before Jesus returns?


Let me close with this: What do you imagine Jesus is doing right this second? Scripture tells us he is seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us; praying for us. So how do you picture him sitting there? Is he bored? Is he still tired from his work on earth? Is he laughing? Is he angry? 


Look at verse 49 and 50 – Do you see what Jesus saying when he says, “I wish this fire were already blazing; and this baptism consumes me until it is finished”? You know how when you’re reading a novel, you just feel that urge to flip to the last chapter and kind of see how things end? Jesus knows how things will end and I think he is saying “I just wish the Church was already purified; I wish the evil were already cast out and we could get on with the best part of the story! I just wish it were the last chapter already!” 


I can’t imagine that Jesus would have endured the baptism of the cross, immersed in the sins of those who would believe, and then sit down and say “well, glad that’s over” while all of creation continues to groan, longing for the new heavens and the new earth. 


What if Jesus is more like a kid on a road trip, asking his Father, are we there yet? Are we at the time where I go to get them yet? Dad, seriously – Can we just end this thing today? I want them to be here with me. I want to be with my bride! 


Or maybe it’s more like an athlete standing at the end of the tunnel ready to run out onto the field, game face on, laser focused on what he’s going to do next. 


Revelation 19:11-16 (CSB) 11 Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse. Its rider is called Faithful and True, and with justice he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes were like a fiery flame, and many crowns were on his head. He had a name written that no one knows except himself. 13 He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called the Word of God. 14 The armies that were in heaven followed him on white horses, wearing pure white linen. 15 A sharp sword came from his mouth, so that he might strike the nations with it. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will also trample the winepress of the fierce anger of God, the Almighty. 16 And he has a name written on his robe and on his thigh: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.


I don’t think he’s coming through those clouds politely. He’s charging at the head of an army  to rid the world of everything that has ever twisted and corrupted, every deception, every foul perversion of his bride, he is coming to clean house and rescue his beauty. And because of the deep love that drove him to the cross in the first place, I can’t imagine Jesus does a very good job of sitting still in heaven. 


Father, it’s not about what I want, it’s about what you want… so can I go get them now so that they can be here with me where I am, and know you like I know, and be unified with you like I am unified with you? How long must I wait!? But until he gets the green light, he continues to intercede for us so that we are washed and pure and holy and ready for that day. 




Tim Challies, The Power of a Pleading Mother,  May 27, 2017, (https://www.challies.com/articles/christian-men-and-their-godly-moms-charles-spurgeon/), accessed Oct 5, 2022.