Welcome to the second half of our sermon series, “Identity”. We’re talking about identity because there’s just something about this time of the year that we tend to struggle with the question . . . is this really what I’m supposed to be doing?”
And as we look at where we’ve been and what we’ve done on this journey of life we make resolutions that essentially say, “This year I’m going to become a better version of me.”
But what I’ve been suggesting is that the only way to become a better version of you is to know who you are; your identity.
And so instead of asking ourselves, “What works?” we should be asking, “What is true?”
And I’ve heard from a lot of you that 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 . . .
• You are loved
• You are worthy
• You are cleansed
• You have been set free to be who God created you to be.
But if you really believe that . . . if you really believe that these are the things that define you . . . then shouldn’t your life reflect it?
• If you believe that your identity is one who is loved . . . shouldn’t you be loving . . . to everyone?
• If you believe that your identity is one who is worthy . . . shouldn’t you treat people with respect?
• If you believe that your identity is one who has been cleansed, shouldn’t you stop throwing mud at others?
• If you believe that your identity is one who has been set free to be who God created you to be, shouldn’t you be encouraging to one another as we all struggle with figuring out who God created us to be and to do?
Most of us . . . if we’re honest . . . have to say “no”. Although we get pretty pumped up about these truths about who we are in Christ . . . honestly, we’re really afraid of what people might think if we start living in light of these truths.
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, we also have to wrestle with the things that we don’t want to hear . . . and today is one of those days.
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 and peace and harmony. After all, one of his names is “The prince of peace”.
But these words seem so completely contrary. Not unity, but division. Not peace, but the sword.
Those words go against the very nature of who I am or at least strive to be. I want to live at peace and agreement with others. And I believe that in spite of the fact that the world is filled with so much disagreement, the majority of us do not want to rock the boat.
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.
Now in that day, fire was very important. They even thought that it was a basic element for creation and re-creation. Fire was used in the fields to clear out the old underbrush in order for new seeds to pop open so they can grow.
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’s pretty pumped up about it because he knows what’s gonna 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 indwell us, we become set aflame with a passionate love for Jesus. It’s a fire that burns within us. It’s a fire that consumes the ungodly parts of us and sets us ablaze with new life and a new identity.
Jesus is talking about is 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.
He wants us to get a little fired up and share his passion because this is exciting stuff . . .
But then he warns us that not everyone will respond favorably to our passion.
If you’re committed to following Jesus with this kind of passion and excitement, it will most likely put you at odds with people who do not share your convictions. And he says that this will include conflict in your family. This is some of 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 Jesus and what he’s doing in your life, every time you begin to live out your identity in Christ, they want to calm you down just a little bit. “Chill out Jesus freak”
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 maintain a red-hot devotion to Jesus. Some of you have already settled for a very small flame. You’ve tried to find that sweet spot to where all your family and friends affirm you and Jesus will still accept you. The flame is not out but it’s as small as possible because you really 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. We cannot just hear what we want to hear. We cannot put our faith in a drawer and take it out at certain time. There is a cost to living out your identity in Christ and one of those costs is division.
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 this world. It might cost you some friends, and it might affect your family, but a different kind of peace will be yours.
Now 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 hot and 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 really 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” . . . start asking . . . “How’s your walk?” “How can I pray for you?” “How can we get fired up about what God’s doing in your life and in this world and through this church?”
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!
When Jesus says these difficult words, he’s on this journey to Jerusalem . . . where he died for our sins, he rose as our savior and he pursues us . . . its called grace.
Gods Riches At Christ’s Expense . . . And he offers it to you and he offers it to me.
And when you receive it, God’s spirit indwells within us and we become set aflame with a passionate love for Jesus and he calls you to a group of other sinners called the church to help keep your flame burning bring through authentic relationships, passionate worship, and missional living.
To really appreciate the depth of God’s story and to fully understand God’s grace, we have to wrestle with the things that we don’t want to hear . . . and when we do, it leads to grace.
We see a God who loves us so much that he would send his only son that whoever believes in him will have ever lasting life.
Now that’s something that we want to her.
This is what Jesus wants us to get excited about. 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 what he’s doing in this world. May God grant us the courage to follow him and be who he has called us to be.