Luk 12:49-53 NKJV “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! (50) But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished! (51) Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. (52) For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. (53) Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

“Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” That grabs your attention doesn’t it? We talk a lot in the church about peace, love, and compassion, yet here it is in plain language, no peace, only division. Jesus starts this message by speaking about casting fire on the earth, about a baptism that he must suffer. That is not the message that most Christians expect to hear at church on a Sunday morning.

Yet in most countries of the world, that is exactly what happens. When a part of the family, a son or daughter, perhaps a husband or wife, accepts Christ as Lord and Savior, they can expect horrible persecution, sometimes even death at the hands of the rest of the family. Even in our own families in many households, we find that division and strife enter the family when Christ is present. Sons, daughters, rebel against parents. Parents punish their children when the children become Christians and the parents are non-believers. Division can be a true reality, whether we realize it or not simply because a part of our family believes while another does not.

Another problem that arises in our society is that of relativism. The very idea that everything is relative. What is true for me may not be true for you, says that there are no absolutes, that morality is what you want it to be. Paul was aware that this was coming, hear what he tells Timothy in: 2Ti 4:2-4 ESV preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (3) For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, (4) and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

In his sermon “Prophets and Losses” Episcopal Priest Austin Mansfield quotes from a book by J. P. Moreland called “Apologetic Reasoning and the Christian Mind”. The story is “One afternoon I was sharing the gospel in a student’s dorm room at the University of Vermont. The student began to espouse ethical relativism: ‘Whatever is true for you is true for you, and whatever is true for me is true for me. But no one should force his or her views on other people since everything is relative.”

Moreland says, “I knew that if I allowed him to get away with ethical relativism, there could be for him no such thing as real, objective sin measured against the objective moral command of God, and thus no need of a Savior. I thanked the student for his time and began to leave his room. On the way, I picked up his small stereo and started out the door with it. ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ he shouted. ‘I am leaving your room with your stereo.’ ‘You can’t do that,’ he gushed.”

But Moreland said, “I happen to think it is permissible to steal stereos if it will help a person’s religious devotions, and I myself could use a stereo to listen to Christian music in my morning devotions. Now I would never try to force you to accept my moral beliefs in this regard because, as you said, everything is relative and we shouldn’t force our ideas on others. But surely you aren’t going to force on me your belief that it is wrong to steal your stereo, are you?”

Moreland then looked at the student and said; “You know what I think? I think that you espouse relativism in areas of your life where it’s convenient, say in sexual morality, or in areas about which you do not care, but when it comes to someone stealing your stereo or criticizing your own moral hobbyhorses, I suspect that you become a moral absolutist pretty quickly, don’t you?”

False prophets, those who will say that it is all alright, even in the face of tragedy, in the face of war or disease, those who say that God will make it right, that God want’s his people to enjoy prosperity and never suffer if only they have enough faith. Are manipulators, not truly prophets.

Brethren, the Bible deals in absolutes, God doesn’t change, and the thread that winds its way through our scriptures doesn’t change either. Those things that were wrong in the beginning, are still wrong today, yet we will listen to those who will tell us that it is alright to live as we wish, after all God gave us the ability to make our own decisions, we can act just like God if we want to.

The only way we can defend ourselves against relativism, against the false words from others, is to have a strong foundation in the word of God. Both that which is printed in our Bibles and the one we know as the word incarnate, Jesus Christ. If we are not familiar with what our Bibles say, then we won’t know when the word is being twisted to make it say what we want it to say. Remember that when Jesus had been in the wilderness 40 days and nights and was tempted by the devil, Satan felt no compunction in twisting the word of God to his own ends. Jesus was hungry, and Satan said, command these stones to become bread, prove you are the Son of God. Feed yourself and everyone will believe in you. Jesus’ reply said: Mat 4:4 ESV But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” It reminds me of the prophet Ezekiel Eze 3:1-4 ESV “And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” (2) So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. (3) And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey. (4) And he said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them.”

Jesus starts with the statement that he will bring fire to the earth. I say to you that it is inevitable that when the New Creation, the Kingdom, meets the same old world, friction is going to become reality. The world in which we live thinks that justice means that no one has their rights infringed. Peace is a lack of war. Prosperity is lack of material needs, the poor in our nation have more than kings in some nations of our world.

It is of course also true that we pursue peace by having the biggest and baddest armed forces, so we maintain our peace by our ability to destroy the enemy. Yet we live in a world that has not known peace since the beginning of the last century. In the coming New Creation, peace will be the fulfillment of the promise of the Kingdom, on earth as in heaven.

The decision to follow Christ is not an easy way, it is difficult, there will be hatred from those who despise the truth you would speak. There will be division in our society, and in our families, following Jesus was not meant to be a walk in the park. Remember that He said we would have to pick up our cross to follow Him daily. Living in and by Christ, means that we live each moment of each day with Christ at the center of existence. Saying that Christ is Lord of our life, is also to say that the government of this world is not Lord, whether it is Caesar or the leaders we have today. When Christ is Lord it also means that our idols, whatever they may be, fame, fortune, power, are no longer valid, only Christ is to be held in awe, and worship. If we are asked to stand in the gap, to stand for Christ, and we run from it, what does it say about our willingness to be seen as disciples? Martin Luther believed it was important that we stand against the world in all things that are against the word of God.

That if we speak out about everything that the world doesn’t like about God, but not speak about that which the world attacks, then truly I am not confessing Christ, no matter what I may say in other circumstances. If I am not willing to stand where the battle rages, then my loyalty to Christ is shown to be shallow and false. To stand and defend on all battle fronts that is to prove that the gospel has real meaning for me. Barbara Brown Taylor tells of an old time preacher named Ernie Campbell who essentially said the same thing by asking: “If I’m following Christ, why am I such a good insurance risk?”

If the cost of discipleship is so high, if there is fire and division involved, why follow? Why did the disciples leave everything behind and follow Jesus when he called. Why did the early Christians suffer persecution and death to follow Christ? Why have so many men and women died through the centuries for Christ, why have more died in the last 100 years than in the previous 1900 years? There is no promise that life will be smooth, there is no reward promised other than that of “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Is it simply because there is no greater joy than having a relationship with Jesus Christ, God Incarnate.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace, for it is in Christ that we find peace in our soul as we face the tribulations of life. World peace will come some day, when the kingdom is fully established on earth, until then, we have the Holy Spirit who walks with us, bringing the peace of God to our lives and the strength of God to our hearts, that we may speak that which God feeds us. We have a community in Christ, that binds us all together as a family. Yes the world is crazy, upside down, but Christ is our guide in the midst of the divisions, the fires, that the world lives in. Praise God, Amen

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