Opening Prayer Thoughts.
Praise God for the privilege of public worship yesterday. Praise God that we can have a heart that is pure because of the work of Christ on the Cross. Praise God that he has provided the means for us to guard our hearts and to live for his glory.
Confess the sin of not pursuing the purity of our hearts as we could. Pray that God would give us a real desire to do so, for his glory and our good.
Jesus cast a fire on the earth at Calvary. Please read Luke 12:49-53
Please seek the help of the Holy Spirit when seeking to understand the Word of God.
V49. "I came to cast fire".
This a challenging passage of Scripture because of what it says about Jesus and peace. Numerous verses in the Bible speak of Jesus and peace, but none say what this passage does. So, let's get into it, and see what is going on.
It opens with a statement about fire and how Jesus came to cast, or throw, fire upon the earth. This is very significant for it speaks to the purpose of Jesus coming to the earth, and yet in doing so, it is at odds with much of how we view Jesus' work. This 'throwing of fire', what does it mean? The next statement about his having a “baptism to be baptized with” sheds light. Jesus is obviously not talking about another baptism like the one he experienced in the river Jordon when John baptised him. This baptism is a 'baptism of death' that awaits him on the Cross. Since that hour, when he stood in line and identified with sinners, Jesus had been on the road to experiencing the baptism that lay before him. He speaks of the distress that journey will continue to be and uses the word “great” to describe it. We tend to think of Jesus' suffering as something he primarily experienced on the Cross, with a few difficult days, like the rest of us have, thrown in along the way. But his life was a daily torrent of suffering because of the sin in the world around him. Think of how it affects us, when we are in company and there is a torrent of bad language, before we address it. Now multiply that manifold times. Also, there was the suffering due to the disciples' inability to understand him, his teaching and his life purpose, e.g., Matthew 15:16. Not to speak of the suffering associated with knowing every day where his life was taking him.
This baptism that awaits Jesus would engulf him in the most extreme suffering of all. A magnitude of suffering we will never be able to comprehend, as he would take the punishment due to his people for their sin. It is a baptism that will end with his death. And it will be his death that will ignite the fire, for the Cross will be the offense that will set the world ablaze.
The Cross changed things entirely in the world. Before the Cross, it was about the Jews and the odd Gentile, living in Palestine, believing in the coming Messiah. Since the Cross, it has been about the entire world and whether men and women across the globe will believe in Christ or not. And at the heart of that conflict is the Cross, because the Cross speaks of only one way of salvation. It is exclusive, and the world hates exclusivity. We tend to think that the world has shifted in recent years from a long-held position of accepting the Cross's exclusiveness, but that is not the case. The world has always demanded inclusiveness; it's just that western civilization has become more ardent and vocal in its expression of its position in the past ten years. The fire that Jesus cast upon the earth, with his death on the Cross, has been raging since that hour and will not be extinguished until the day he returns.
V51. Prince of Peace - yes or no?
So, did Jesus come to bring peace to the earth or not? Yes and no. Yes, he is the 'Prince of Peace', Isaiah 9:6. Yes, he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, and upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, Isaiah 53:5. Yes, the feet of those who bring the good news, who publish peace, are beautiful, Isaiah 52:7. Yes, justification through faith does bring peace with God, Romans 5:1. Yes, we are to desire the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, knowing that it will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Philippians 4:7. Yes, we are to be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, Ephesians 4:3. Yes, we are to expect that the Lord of Peace will give us peace at all times, in every way, 2 Thessalonians 3:16; and yes, we are to desire that mercy, peace and love will be multiplied to us, Jude 1:2. But, there is another reality – in his bringing peace to his elect, Jesus also brought judgement to the world. That judgement means that the fire of the resulting war is inevitable. And it is not a war that is being waged in some far-off, unknown battlefield; it is a daily reality all around us, including in our homes.
V52. Division is just a reality.
Jesus takes the smallest Jewish family – a father, mother, married son, his wife and one unmarried daughter. They are split into two parties, three against two, and two against three. The father and son are not getting on, nor is the mother with the daughter and with her daughter-in-law. There is division in multiple relationships within the household. No one is neutral. All are participants. Jesus' point? The Cross, the offense of the gospel, will bring real division. It is not hypothetical.
This is the reality of the Cross, and often we want to navigate around such troubled waters, but the fact is that we can't do so and stay faithful to the truth. Jesus threw fire upon the earth with his death to save his elect. Those who are not numbered among the elect do not like Jesus. They find his claim, to be the only Saviour of man, unacceptable – it simply cannot be true is their mantra. Their refusal, to confess their sin and seek the salvation freely offered in the gospel, may sit quietly dormant for a season, but not indefinitely. Their rejection of Christ and salvation will be vented, for they cannot perpetuate their rebellion against God and continue to project ambivalence in the face of the gospel. The holiness and peace we exude, because of the Holy Spirit's work in our lives, grates on them, and that grating will give rise, on occasions, to explosive responses, either passive or aggressive. When it happens, what is said or done will seldom speak directly to the real cause. Frequently it will appear as something totally unrelated, and that is because the desire of the deceitful heart will seek to camouflage the real issue. They know they are rejecting Christ, they want to reject Christ, but they just don't want to be seen to be rejecting Christ out of a desire to self-protect their image.
I remember an incident that took place when I was at university. I shared a house with three other guys who were in my course. My bedroom was a box room on the ground floor, literally just big enough for a single bed and a wardrobe. One of the guys who lived in the house, Ken, was a bit of a character, but he and I got on well. Some nights we would sit and sing Bob Dylan songs; he played the guitar, in fact, he played it really well. There were nights, not that many, when Ken would stagger into the house, having drunk too much, and he would be unable to get up what must have been one of the narrowest, 'twistiest' staircases ever installed in a house. Hearing the noise of his banging about, I would go out and help him into my bed, and I would go up the flights of stairs and sleep in his bed. During the last week of our time together, Ken came into my room for a chat, and asked why I was the type of person I was. Of course, he knew why, but I talked to him of the Lord, and that was that, and he left. A few hours later, Ken came back, having had a few drinks, and asked if we could sing; I said, of course. At some point, I can't remember if we had sung one or two songs, he stood up and said, 'Andy, I am not going to hurt you, but I don't need your God, I don't need any God in my life', and then smashed his prized possession, his guitar, off each one of the four walls of the room. Then he just stood looking quietly at me for what seemed an age before turning, head bowed, and walked out of the room. Gentle, cool, calm, 'nothing bothers me' Ken, had erupted. Why? Because 2000 years ago Jesus cast a fire on the earth when he died on the Cross. The Prince of Peace brought division, and that division is real. It often lies dormant, but it is always there, simmering below the surface; but on occasions, it will well up in the sinful heart, and when it erupts, the division will be clear.
We need to be aware of this. Not everyone is going to take well to our presenting the gospel to them. But should that deter us? NO, because we do not know if, by God's grace, that eruption will be the precursor to their crying out for mercy and eternal salvation. You and I cannot read the heart, and, therefore, while being ready for the 'guitar to be smashed', we must also be prepared and desirous for the mouth to confess and the heart to believe in our exclusive Saviour, Jesus Christ.
A Psalm to Sing.
Psalm 62A - Link to the words. Link to it being sung. Sing with joy in your heart to God.
It is a privilege to lay into our hearts and minds the light and truth of God's Word.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God"
Truth for the Mind and Heart
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 91 - How do the sacraments become effective means of salvation?
Answer - The sacraments become effective means of salvation not because of any power in them or in him who administers them, but only by the blessing of Christ and the working of his Spirit in those who receive them in faith.
This is taken from https://matt2819.com/wsc where you will find proof texts.
Thank God that there is salvation in and through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Pray for wisdom as we live in a world that rejects Christ and hates us because it hates him.
Take care in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley
Minister, Ottawa RPC