What Matters Most to You?
A sermon preached on Luke 12:49-53 by Pastor Michael Johnson at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Sioux Falls, SD on September 8, 2019.
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 how distressed I am 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.” – Luke 12:49-53
What matters most to you? It might be a trophy from your glory years. It might be your car. It might be your family. God is very clear what matters most to him – he tells us of his desire to save us in the Bible.
This morning, Jesus uses some hard to understand words to teach us what matters most to him. Why would he use such confusing words sometimes when he taught? Two reasons: 1. Sometimes Jesus would say something that was purposely hard to understand at first glance that would encourage his hearers to ponder his words and learn from them. 2. Other times Jesus’ words are hard to hear because you and I still have a sinful nature and he never minced words. He preached some very direct law that hits right at the heart of our sinful natures.
So what matters most to you? What’s your passion? Jesus certainly gives us a sense of passion in his words today.
Jesus says: ““I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!” What’s Jesus talking about with this fire? At first it seems really odd but when you think about it, we commonly use fire to talk about passion. We might say someone’s really on fire for a project. I would say I’m on fire for a ministry like Growth Groups which will start this week. Or you see someone like LeBron James right before tip off in the NBA Finals. Now there’s a game face with fire in his eyes.
What was Jesus on fire for? What was his purpose? Jesus told us his purpose here when he said: “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus says, I’m here to die – that’s distressing! and how I wish it were already kindled! Jesus wished it was here and done with already when he said this. As not fun as it would be, paying for our sins was what Jesus was on fire for.
What are you on fire for? I have a feeling that if I went around asking everyone that question during this week, I’d get a lot of different answers. Maybe you’re following your favorite baseball team as we head into Fall. Many are excited for the Vikings to start. Maybe you’re just excited to have a quieter house now that school has started. But let’s be honest, how many of us if we were just in casual conversation about what’s most important to us, how many of us would say what Jesus has done for us and living for him is what fires us up in the morning? Do I wake up in the morning eager to live for God and to thank him for all he has done? Or am I most hoping that there’s a hot pot of coffee ready? Is my work week a chance to glorify God or am I simply working for the weekend and a chance to spoil myself?
That’s why I am so glad that Jesus accomplished what he came to do: “But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!” What baptism did he need to undergo? His suffering and death. Even though Jesus had lived a perfect life, never sinning or doing anything wrong, he died on the cross. He took my sin and your sin on himself and he paid their punishment. He has completely forgiven you. The Bible says there is nothing that we need to add to his forgiveness: “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).
Not only does he forgive our sins, he sets our hearts on fire for him by making his home in our hearts through baptism. You can say no to sin and yes to God because the Holy Spirit dwells within you.
Wouldn’t it be great if everyone in the world received that fire of the Holy Spirit? Sadly, the reality is no, not everyone has – there are many unbelievers in the world. Because of this, one of the marks of Jesus’ work will be division. Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 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.”
Jesus came for division? I thought he came for peace? Of course, Jesus came to bring peace. The angels proclaimed peace to man on the night of his birth. The Bible calls him the Prince of Peace. He brings peace between brothers and sisters in Christ here in the church. Most importantly, he brings peace between you a sinner and your holy God through his forgiveness.
But not everyone is going to appreciate that peace. So there will be division in this world. There will always be a division between believers and unbelievers in this world. Why? The closer you get to Jesus, the more on fire you get for Jesus, the farther away from the philosophies of this world you get. The more on fire for Jesus you get, the more complicated some of your relationships here on earth might become. That’s the kind of division Jesus is talking about.
For example, a single person may say “I’m going to walk with Christ and stay pure and use his gift of sex to honor him when I’m married” Some of your friends may say, why spend so much money on two apartments, just move in together – and there will be division. A young lady might say that her hope and dream is to become a wife and mother and raise her children to love Jesus and some of your friends might say what a waste, don’t you want to do more with your life? And there will be division. You will be considered foolish and naïve for trusting God’s Word and believing God created the world in six days just like he said. You will be considered unloving and judgmental just for believing true marriage is as God designed it – one man and one woman for life. The closer you get to Jesus, the more complicated some of your relationships may become.
So how do you stay on fire for Jesus? The times you have been the most on fire for Christ, the times you have been hottest in your faith were the times you were most into receiving what he tells us in his Word. The coolest times in your life are the times when you go without God’s Word and time with your brothers and sisters in Christ.
If you use a charcoal grill, are you going to heat up the coals all clumped together or spread out as far as possible? You’re going to pile them up as close as you can right? You can use a whole bottle of lighter fluid; you’re not going to get the coals going if they’re all spread out right? And if you take a coal out of the pile and put it on the ground, it doesn’t take long to cool off. Christians are a lot like a bunch of coals. The more we gather together and encourage each other and see we’re not the only ones who believe what we believe – the more on fire for Jesus we are. The more we try and go on alone, the cooler we are.
It’s easy during summer to let things distract us from God and his Word. As Family Bible Hour starts up again today – take the time to remember what’s most important to us. God’s Word and his forgiveness in Word and Sacrament are what set us on fire. Join together with your brothers and sisters here as often as possible. Join a Growth Group and renew your fire during the week. Be set on fire for Christ and keep each other on fire. Amen.