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The Dividing Christ

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
December 11, 2022 12:01 am

The Dividing Christ

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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December 11, 2022 12:01 am

No one can be neutral toward Jesus. You're either for Him or against Him. Today, R.C. Sproul continues his exposition of Luke's gospel by examining Christ's surprising declaration that He came into the world to bring division.

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Coming up next on the Lord's Day edition of Renewing Your Mind.

We think about peace every Christmas Eve, peace on earth. Isn't that why you came, to bring peace? So you said, no. If you suppose that, it's an improper supposition.

He said, I tell you, not at all. It's not my purpose, but rather division. Some might bristle at that declaration from Jesus.

Division? What good can come from that? Let's find out what Jesus meant and why it's important in understanding the kingdom of God.

Here is R.C. Sproul preaching from the Gospel of Luke chapter 12. He'll begin reading at verse 49. I came to send fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled. But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished.

Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on, five in one house will be divided, three against two and two against three. 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. Then he also said to the multitudes, Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, A shower is coming, and so it is. And when you see the south wind blow, you say, There will be hot weather, and there is. Hypocrites, you can discern the face of the sky and of the earth. How is it you do not discern this time?

Yes, and why even of yourselves do you not judge what is right? When you go with your adversary to the magistrate, make every effort along the way to settle with him, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you shall not depart from there until you have paid the very last mite. Perhaps we're breathing a sigh of relief that we finally come to the end of chapter 12, because this chapter is extraordinary in the number of passages in it that carry what we call hard sayings. But of all the hard sayings we've heard from Jesus in this chapter, I think none is more difficult than the one that you've just heard a few moments ago. But again, I remind you that this is not the imagination of Luke from antiquity, but it is the inspired record of the actual words and teaching of Christ Himself. Remember He said that He spoke nothing of His own authority, but only on that which the Father had given to Him.

And so the words that you've just heard are as distasteful as they may be to your ears. They come to you from God Himself, and I urge you to receive them with the fullness of His authority. The text begins this morning with the statement that Jesus made concerning the reason for His incarnation. And indeed, on this occasion, His explanation for the incarnation is not just difficult but shocking to hear. On more than one occasion, Jesus gave other reasons for His coming to this world. He said, I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly. And again, He said, I came not to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.

And during His trial before Pontius Pilate, He said, I came to bear witness to the truth, and all who are of the truth hear my word. But on this occasion, He gives another reason for His coming, one that indeed is astonishing for us to hear, where He said, I came to send fire on the earth. Now, if you were out in the parking lot on your way into church this morning, and somebody would have come up to you and said, Why do you think Jesus came to this world? What do you think He would have said? And I really doubt if any of you would have answered the question by saying, Well, I think Jesus came to this world in order to bring fire on the earth.

That's the last thing we normally think of for the reason of Christ's appearance. But that's what He says right here. I didn't write this.

I didn't make this up out of whole cloth. These are the words of Jesus. I came, He said, to send fire on the earth. But wait, there's more. It gets worse because now He not only announces that He's going to send fire on the earth, but He communicates His own internal, visceral feelings about that task.

You would expect Him to say after the comma when He says, I come to send fire on the earth. I'm sorry to tell you that. I hate the thought of it.

I do it reluctantly. God forbid that it should actually come to pass. But He never said anything like that. Rather He says, How I wish it were already kindled.

Jesus is now bearing His soul. He's saying something about the deepest longing. When He says, I wish that that fire were already kindled.

What in the world are we to make of that? The best of scholarly interpreters historically have come to this text and interpreted it in different ways. One way, perhaps the most common way, the text is interpreted is that Jesus is plainly saying plainly saying that I wish that the Father would send the fire of judgment that He has been holding back upon this earth, and I wish He would do it quickly. I can't wait for that judgment to take place. And yet if Jesus were to express a joy of anticipation of a fierce divine judgment upon this earth, we would tend to shrink in horror at such a thought. I doubt if there are many things more despicable to our thinking in 21st century America than the idea that God would ever consume the earth with wrath and with judgment. I think back to the attack on 9-11, that the day after on 9-12, two prominent preachers announced that they believed that what had happened the day before was an expression of the judgment of God, and the public outcry was so great against them that they apologized for their remarks. And all of a sudden out of nowhere it seemed like every bumper sticker in the world had the banner upon it saying, God bless America. Do you remember that? When I saw that, I thought, isn't it interesting that Americans still believe that it's possible for God to bless a country but won't stomach the idea that He could judge a nation and bring it to ruin.

Well, if you're asking God to bless the country, you've got to admit that it's possible that He might not, and that your desire is in vain. Well, this Bible contains lots of doctrines that are controversial and difficult, but I doubt there is any more difficult to deal with than the doctrine of hell. It's interesting to me that almost everything that we know about hell in the New Testament comes to us from Jesus, not from the apostles, not that the apostles deny it or completely overlook it, but the vast majority of texts that we have in Scripture about hell come from Jesus. And I've often speculated on that why it is that the burden is on the back of Jesus with respect to this doctrine. I'm guessing that God knew that we wouldn't accept that doctrine from anybody less than Jesus, certainly not from the preacher and probably not from the apostles and even from the lips of Christ.

People kick and scream against the idea. So odious is it. I remember being in seminary in a seminar with my mentor, and one of the students asked him this question. They said, if I go to heaven and I find that my mother is not there but that she's in hell, how can I possibly be happy in heaven? And the professor looked at the student and said, young man, don't you know that when you get to heaven you'll be so purified from sin, so sanctified by the Holy Spirit that you'll be so much more concerned about the glory of God than you will be about the well-being of your mother that you will see that your mother is in hell and rejoice to know it. And when he said that, there was an audible gasp from the students in the class. One student laughed, giggled out loud. When he said that, I started to laugh, and he said, what's so funny, Mr. Sproul?

I said, well, really nothing's funny, but I just can't believe that you said what you just said. And I thought a lot about it afterwards. I realized that I'm a sinner. All of my friends are sinners. Everybody that I love in this world is a sinner. I have so much more in common with sinners than I have with God in His perfection and His holiness, and my concerns always favor the side of those like me. But what the professor was saying is that at some point we will be so in love with the glory of God that we see the vindication of His righteousness and of His holiness in the punishment of wickedness that we'll be able to rejoice in it.

Now remember that Jesus was without sin. His meat and His drink was to do the will of the Father, and though He was a man of sorrows, a man of profound compassion, certainly no more compassionate human being in the history of the world than was Jesus. This Jesus, who when He looked at Jerusalem and knew what fate was befalling it in the near future, He wept over the city, and He said, oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I would have gathered you to Myself like a hen gathers her chicks, but you wouldn't but you wouldn't. And yet it's that same man of compassion who said, I wish it were already kindled.

Now that's one possible interpretation. The second one was that Jesus knew that the judgment of God was coming, and He just simply wanted to get it over with. And that is linked to the next statement that He says, I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am until it's accomplished. Isn't it ironic that in chapter 12, just a few verses earlier, Jesus told His disciples, be anxious for nothing.

Don't worry about tomorrow, what you should eat, what you should drink, what you should put on. And He gave that sermonette against anxiety. And yet here He reveals a profound state of distress, a profound concern for Himself for what was waiting for Him in the near future. I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am to let it's accomplish.

Well, what? He was already baptized. He'd been baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, or properly, John the Presbyterian. But you see, John baptized Him with water. This baptism was not a baptism of water. It was a baptism of fire. Again, the fire of divine judgment. So why did he use the term baptism to baptize? What he was getting at is this, is that the fire of the Father's wrath is not merely going to touch me.

It's not simply going to harm me a little bit, or singe my hair. But I'm going to be immersed in it, inundated by it, swallowed up in it, because all of God's wrath that is poured out on every one of my people for their sin is coming on me. He was looking towards the cross, the most vicious expression of divine wrath that we find anywhere in Scripture. God was not playing with His Son at Calvary. This was real judgment.

This was real fire. This was the fullness of hell itself that came upon Him. And at this point, Jesus is saying, I can't wait to get it over with. I can't wait to cry from the cross. It is finished. It's done.

No more. And then He goes on, Do you suppose that I came to give peace on the earth? Well, yes, Jesus, we call you the Prince of Peace. We think about peace every Christmas Eve.

Peace on earth. Isn't that why you came, to bring peace? So you said, no. If you suppose that, it's an improper supposition.

He said, I tell you, not at all. It's not my purpose, but rather division. Division? Division? Lord, that's a bad thing to divide people. We thought you came to reconcile everybody, and to bring healing everywhere. And now you're telling us you came to bring division. What's He talking about? When the New Testament talks about the appearance of Christ, it uses a little Greek word that is the word crisis. We get the English word so we get the English word crisis from it, but the translation of the word crisis is not crisis, but judgment, division. What Jesus is saying is that all of human history will be divided by Me.

And He goes on to explain. From now on, there'll be five people in one house. It'll be three against two, two against three, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, father against son, son against father. Not over the abolition of slavery, we're not going to have a civil war, but over Me. You will be divided. The world will be divided.

The most dividing question in the history of the world is the question, what do you do with Jesus? I remember the first week I became a Christian. I came home, and I said to my mother, assuming a joyous response would be forthcoming, I said, Mom, guess what? She said, well, I said, Mom, guess what? She said, well, I said, I became a Christian this week. She said, What? You've always been a Christian, as if being a Christian meant being an American or something.

I said, No, Mom. What I mean is I've come to know Christ as my Savior. She didn't have a clue what I was talking about at that point. By the grace of God, she came to know. But in the meantime, my sister, my cousins, my uncles and aunts did everything but disown me because I committed my life to Christ.

That act cost me more friends than anything in my entire life. And I was shocked how intense the hostility and animosity was toward Christ. You see it out there every day, and you see it in here every day. And we do everything we can to mollify the situation, to water down the divisive character of Christ. But Christ made it clear there is no neutrality. With respect, you're either for Him or you're against Him. And whether you're for or against is the most critical standpoint you will ever have eternally. If you're not for Him, you're against Him.

And if you stay against Him, you will be against Him and He against you forever. That's why in the midst of this crisis, that's why in the midst of this crisis, He said, you people can predict the weather. You don't need to turn on the television, have a meteorologist. You see if a cloud comes out of the west, you know it's coming from the Mediterranean Sea. And you know when it comes from the sea, it's going to rain. You feel a warm breeze coming out of the south, out of the Negev. You know what that means?

It's the Scirocco that's coming that's going to scorch the earth. But you can't discern what time it is. You don't know how critical, and I choose the word carefully, it comes from crisis. It is for human history that I'm here. So I said, you people make judgments all the time. What do you do when you go with your adversary to the magistrate?

Along the way, do you have a little conversation, a friendly chat with them? No, you try to settle the dispute before you get to the judge, and the judge decides against you, hands you over to the officer, and the officer throws you into prison where you won't come out until you pay the very last penny. What's he talking about? Don't wait till the last judgment to come to him. If you do, it'll be too late. And the judge of all the earth will hand you over to judgment, and you won't get out until you pay the last cent, which means you won't ever get out because we are all debtors. If we're not for him, we're against him. But he's given us time as he displays his patience and mercy to reconcile with God. Such a helpful message from the Gospel of Luke today as we continue R.C. Sproul's sermon series. Thanks for joining us for the Sunday edition of Renewing Your Mind.

I'm Lee Webb. So far in this series, we've learned much about Jesus and his work on this earth. Over the coming months, we'll finish the entire book, so let me recommend that you take advantage of our resource offer today. Contact us with a donation of any amount, and we will provide you with a digital download of Dr. Sproul's commentary on Luke. You'll find helpful notes and explanation for each verse. It will be a great help to your study of Luke for years to come. To receive it, just contact us with your donation of any amount at

Typically, R.C. sermons were longer than we can fit into one program here on the radio. We include the full sermon in the podcast version of the show, so look for Renewing Your Mind in your favorite podcast app. In addition to biblical teaching like we've heard today, Ligonier Ministries continues to produce new teaching resources on Christian living, theology, church history, and cultural issues. You can find a broad selection of teaching, including Dr. Sproul's series Foundations in our online learning community, Ligonier Connect. You can get involved with interactive video courses and learn at your own pace. Find out more and get started at I hope you have a great week, and please make plans to join us again next Sunday for Renewing Your Mind. Thank you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-11 09:48:36 / 2022-12-11 09:56:26 / 8

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