Today, we are wrapping up our sermon series; My One Word. Throughout this series, I’ve been challenging you to think differently about New Year’s resolutions. Here’s why.
Each January 200 Million people will choose a problematic behavior that has plagued them for years and vow to reverse it; commonly known as New Year’s Resolutions. And in February, 80% of those will aggressively abandon or fail in those resolutions . . . welcome to February!
What I’ve been suggesting is that this happens because of how we think about New Year’s resolutions. Certainly, there is a yearning deep within us for something to change but honestly, our resolutions are simply an acknowledgment of our failures based on perceived expectations within our culture and so we make lofty plans to become a better version of ourselves.
Unfortunately, resolutions seldom work because they center on the person we regret being, rather than on who God is calling us to become.
So, throughout January, I challenged you to begin to think differently about resolutions. Instead of asking, how can I become a better version of me, ask, what does God want me to become this year? I challenged you to carve out some time to ask God for one word to be placed in your heart. One word that you believe captures God’s desire for your life this year.
A word that will serve as a lens for you to see God’s work in your life, and a word that will shape, inform, and give you a fresh perspective of your life.
You see, we need vision, not regret. We need to look forward, not backward.
Hopefully you’ve been inspired and encouraged by what you’ve been taught throughout this series as you’ve heard that in Jesus, you have a new and different identity . . . an identity that shapes your life. An identity that offers the vision we need.
You’ve heard words like Loved, worthy, cleansed, and set free.
But this morning, the word Jesus has for us is a difficult one . . . maybe one that you don’t want to hear but to really appreciate the depth of God’s love and to fully understand God’s grace -that we are cleansed and set free, we also have to wrestle with the words that we don’t want to hear . . . and today is one of those days.
Let’s listen to our text: READ Luke 12:49-53
For three years, the disciples had traveled with Jesus and they thought they knew what he was all about. They had seen him reach out to the broken and offer restoration. Bring healing to the sick. Life to the dead, and hope to the hopeless . . .
They had listened to his teachings that love was more important than money, people were more valuable than religion, and forgiveness was more powerful than revenge.
And then Jesus seems to turn 180 degrees from his character. He says . . .
“You think I have come to bring peace to the world . . . I have not come to bring peace, but division. Because of me, households will be divided; Son’s will argue with their fathers. Daughters will disagree with their mothers. Good friends will be at odds with one another . . . all because of me.”
Does that bother you? I’ve got to tell you that it bothers me because that’s not what I want to hear. That’s not what I want my Jesus to be about. My Jesus has called people to come together in unity and agreement, harmony and peace. After all, one of his names is “The prince of peace”.
But this word – division - seems completely contrary to the nature of God.
This word goes against the very nature of who I strive to be. I want to live at peace and agreement with others. And although the world is filled with so much disagreement, I think that most of us just really don’t want to rock the boat.
But I guess that the problem comes when people seek peace at the expense of principle. When our goal becomes to simply get along or to not make waves it often leads to abandoning who we are and what we stand for.
This is exactly what Jesus is addressing . . . and He begins by talking about fire. An agricultural analogy.
In that day, fire was very important. They believed that it was a basic element for creation and re-creation. Fire was used in the fields to clear out the underbrush in order to make way for new life.
This is a great analogy.
You see, Jesus is on this passionate journey toward Jerusalem, toward the cross, toward his place of death, burial, resurrection, and ascension in order to bring fire that would consume the old and make way for new life.
And although this journey brings Jesus a lot of distress . . . he is at peace about his journey because he knows what’s going to happen.
In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit descends upon the church, and resting above the Christians is something like flames of fire. And as the Holy Spirit dwells within us, we become set aflame with a passionate love for God and his creation. It’s a fire that burns within us. It’s a fire that consumes the old and sets us ablaze with new life and a new identity and a new kind of resolution.
So, Jesus is talking about passion, enthusiasm, zeal, and devotion. He wants to see us on fire for the sake of the kingdom of God. He wants us to get pumped up about what God is doing in our lives and that we are called to live out our identities to be a part of what God is doing in this world.
But then he warns us that not everyone will respond favorably to our passion.
If you’re committed to moving forward with this kind of passion, enthusiasm and devotion, it will most likely put you at odds with people who do not share your convictions. Even with people in your own family. And as some of know, that is the most painful, difficult, complicated conflict there can be.
In the earliest years of the church, when Christianity was a radically new religion, people were despised for following Jesus. It was a major point of division. If a Jew converted to Christianity, his family had a funeral for him, and he was disowned. If a person claimed to be a disciple of Christ, they were considered the enemy, and a bounty was placed upon their head.
Jesus is forewarning us that this fire, this zeal, this passion is going to cause conflict and there will be people, including family members, who will try to throw water on your fire. Their goal is to get your flame to be as small as possible, perhaps extinguish it all together.
How many of you, right now, there are people in your life who are holding a bucket of water waiting for the chance to douse out your flame? Every time you get a little excited about what God is doing in your life, every time you begin to live out your identity, they want to calm you down a little bit.
And the reality is that life would be a lot easier if you didn’t take your faith seriously; you could go with the flow, adjust your convictions and your lifestyle to fit the circumstance. Then there would be peace in your family, or peace in your friendships, but inside you would be a mess because you cannot serve two masters . . . another difficult thing Jesus liked to say and something we don’t like to hear.
This is a sobering word. To really contemplate what cost you’re willing to pay to passionately move forward with new life, a new vision, and a new kind of resolution.
That’s why some of us settle for a very small flame. The flame is not out but it’s as small as possible because you just don’t want to rock the boat.
You see, these hard sayings of Jesus are only hard because they call us to live by our convictions; to walk the walk and sometimes there’s is a cost to living out your identity and one of those costs is division.
But Jesus wants to see us on fire for the sake of the kingdom of God. He wants us to get pumped up about what God is doing in this world. It might cost you some friends, and it might affect your family, but a different kind of peace will be yours.
The same kind of peace Jesus had as he made his passionate journey toward Jerusalem.
As I think about following God’s call to passionately live out my identity in Christ, I am reminded of another story found in Luke 9:57-62
This guy comes up to Jesus and says, “I totally want to follow you, I want to live my life with this kind of passion and enthusiasm you’re talking about, but I’ve got something I need to do first. I need to go home, and I need to tell my friends and family that I’m going to become a Christ follower.”
Now, it doesn’t seem like there’s anything wrong with this, but Jesus knows that if that if this guy goes back, he’s never going to move forward.
That’s just how some people are, if they look back, they’re never ever going to move forward because when they look to their past, they will either want to relive it or even try to revise it.
There’s nothing wrong with looking to your past and thinking, “Boy that was a wreck. Wish I hadn’t done that” but it’s something completely different to look back with longing.
That’s what the Israelites did. They were in bondage and slavery in Egypt for four hundred years; tormented, beaten and even killed. God liberated them and gave them a new calling and vision for life.
But when they’re walking around in the desert and they’re tired and hungry because the journey of liberation is a hard one, they look back and they complain.
“Ah, you remember the good old days in Egypt?” “Yeah, Egypt rocked. I miss Egypt.”
Really? . . . You were a slave
You see, when following your identity and calling gets a little difficult – and it will - we tend to romanticize our past, “Oh that was awesome” and Jesus is saying, “Don’t look back because what will happen . . . even if you have the greatest of intentions . . . you might ruin your life”
I’m calling you to follow me to something great and if you go back, you’ll never go forward.
And then he uses another agricultural analogy . . . He says, “Your life is like a field, and God has apportioned to you a row to plow. And if you want to have any harvest in your life then you need to put your hand on the plow, and you need to set your eyes forward and keep your feet moving, working hard and doing our best.”
And just like Jesus plowed a straight-line right into Jerusalem, we need to plow a straight line and not be looking back. Eyes forward, hands on the plow, feet always moving, working hard, doing our best till we see him face-to-face.
And what he says is, “If you don’t do that, you’ll take your hand off the plow and you’ll look back.” and “You can’t plow a straight row looking back, and you just can’t.” It’s a great analogy.
What’s interesting is that we don’t know what this guy does. It’s almost as if the text leaves the question hanging . . . and that we must answer it for ourselves.
So, as we wrap up this series, I want to leave us with one last challenge for the coming year.
If you’re anything like me, when there’s an awkward moment in the conversation, or things are being said that you just don’t want to hear, you try to change the subject and focus on something that is way more important . . . like the weather.
I mean, everybody wants to know about the weather because if you know what the weather is going to be that day than you’ll know how to prepare for that day . . . right?
But people say the craziest things about the weather as if it’s the most important thing we could talk about in the few moments we have together.
- “It’s very hot out today” . . . man, thanks for the tidbit of wisdom; no wonder I’m so sweaty. I’m not sure what I would have done without you telling me that it’s hot outside today.
- “It’s raining today” . . . well, that would explain why I’m so wet. I was inside and dry and then I went outside, and I got wet and I wasn’t exactly sure how that happened.
It’s amazing to think about how much of our life is filled with ridiculous conversations about the weather
So, I was thinking, what if as a church we started having conversations of passion . . . instead of asking, “How’s the weather” . . . ask . . . “How are you doing with the word God placed on your heart?” “How can I pray for you?” “How can I encourage you as you strive to become who God has called you to be?”
What would happen if we started having those kinds of conversations? I think that the little flame of passion that we once had would start burning a little hotter and brighter. It would create a church culture of enthusiasm and zeal and devotion which would lead to authentic relationships, passionate worship and missional living . . . that’s something that gets me pretty pumped up!