Luke 12:49“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish that it were already kindled.”
What is the fire Jesus came to bring? Jesus sets the world on fire with his gospel message. Here it is viewed from a perspective we don’t often consider. The gospel Jesus preached can’t be believed unless people are willing to be real about themselves. It is meaningless if we aren’t painfully honest about ourselves. Jesus’ gospel is the good news that he has done everything to restore our relationship with God. He has paid for our sins. He has lived the obedient and loving life that we owed. He has done one hundred percent of the work.
When we get past our pride and admit the real extent of our moral failure, that gospel is one hundred percent good news. So long as we are clinging to some illusion of personal goodness, so long as we are convinced of our own spiritual ability, either we won’t understand what Jesus did for us, or we will reject it. In fact, we will probably hate it.
So what does a fire do? Take a fire out of a fireplace or campfire ring, and set it loose, and what does it do? A fire spreads. A friend of mine had a summer job as a fire fighter in Idaho during his college days. Fires can make some amazing turns and jumps and changes of direction. Just when you think you have them under control, they flare up all over again.
That’s how it is with the complete forgiveness and total salvation Jesus has set loose on earth. It spreads to hearts in one place where it is preached, and suddenly flares up in hearts no one would have expected to believe it. Who can predict where it will take hold next? Jesus’ own disciples consisted of a government bureaucrat and a radical anti-government militiaman. The New Testament is filled with reports and stories of the gospel catching on in the families and courts of rulers and emperors, as well as with the slaves and prisoners. It caught on with those who made their living as religious professionals and with those who practiced the world’s oldest profession. I have seen it come to life in the hearts of people I would never have guessed might believe it. If I am honest, the most surprising place I’ve seen the flame of the gospel flare up is inside of me.
But not everyone believes. Of course, fire not only spreads. It burns. Jesus’ message inspires great passions both for it and against it. Those who believe it will insist on spreading it. Those who don’t believe it will insist on putting it out. Only where Jesus’ message has been watered down does it fail to produce friction and heat among men.
Do you see how Jesus is confronting us here? If you are looking for the politically correct, socially acceptable, consistently civil Rotary-Club god or religion, don’t come knocking on Jesus’ door. His message isn’t tame. It isn’t “safe.” It isn’t respectable from a worldly point of view. If we try to make it that we will only be fighting against him.
Jesus’ message is a fire on the earth. It excites. It inspires. It consumes. On the inside it even gives us peace with God. But on the outside it disturbs the peace as it sets the world on fire.