I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled (Luke 12:49, NKJV)!
The picture of Jesus as a passionless, passive person is not the portrait emblazoned on the pages of inspired Scripture. His passionate heart bursts open in this passage as He testifies of the conflagration His word and work would have (and was already having) on the world. As Plummer commented, “Christ came to set the world on fire, and the conflagration had already begun” (cited by A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures). Soon, Jesus would be immersed in personal suffering and death, the sacrifice for our sins (Luke 12:50). His redemptive work would (and continues to) divide families. Do you suppose it would be otherwise (Luke 12:51)? Not at all. Families would be (and still are) divided by the truth of Jesus Christ, as some believe and follow Him while others reject His truth and oppose those who choose Him over them (Luke 12:52-53; Matt. 10:34-37). Jesus continued His thunderous proclamation by calling out the hypocrites who could read the weather signs but refused to see the signs that He is the Christ, the Son of God (Luke 12:54-57; Matt. 16:1-4). No, Jesus was not a shrinking violet. Followers of Jesus understand and accept the cost of discipleship. They pay the price of allegiance to Him, putting Him above and before anyone or anything else (Luke 14:25-33). The fire of trials will test and purify the Christian’s faith and produce genuine faith that results in eternal salvation (1 Pet. 1:6-9).
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19–21, NKJV).
Jesus makes a strong contrast being material and spiritual things. We do not achieve spiritual fulfillment by material means. For example, while important, caring for one’s body is not the same as caring for one’s soul; That requires exercising ourselves toward godliness (1 Tim. 4:7-8). The earth and its goods are transitory, temporary, and tenuous. To invest one’s heart and life in these things is to miss the greater treasure that is enduring and eternal. We will fix our hearts on one or the other. Christians focus their hearts on spiritual wealth. The previous teachings of Christ in this sermon illuminate heavenly treasures. In the Beatitudes, Jesus explains the spiritual fortune of kingdom citizens (Matt. 5:1-12). Choosing righteous conduct reflects a heart that values heaven more than earthly vindication and pleasure (Matt. 5:17-48). Seeking God’s favor in our service and prayers shows a heart dedicated to treasures men cannot spoil (Matt. 6:1-18). Money is not evil, but loving it is (1 Tim. 6:9-10). Loving heavenly things equips us to use material goods to serve others and honor God while laying hold of eternal life (1 Tim. 6:17-19).
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace (Romans 8:5–6, NKJV).
We live according to where we set our minds. The person who fixes his mind on fleshly things lives for the flesh and produces the “works of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19-21). The apostle of Christ firmly declared, “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:21). Conversely, to live “according to the Spirit,” we must set our minds on “the things of the Spirit.” What are those things? Nothing less than the things the Spirit revealed to the apostles, which they preached to the world (1 Cor. 2:10-13). The things of the Spirit are the words of truth He revealed, confirmed, and inspired. The “fruit of the Spirit” is borne in our lives when we follow the Spirit’s guidance that is in God’s word (Gal. 6:16-18, 22-23). Today’s passage explains we either live “according to the flesh,” or we live “according to the Spirit,” but not both. Spiritual death (separation from God) is the outcome of being carnally minded. Spiritual life and peace with God result from being spiritually minded. Have you set your mind on the things of the Spirit or the flesh? “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2).
30 You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the earth. May the glory of the Lord endure forever; May the Lord rejoice in His works (Psalm 104:30–31, NKJV).
God “created the heavens and the earth” and all life on it (Gen. 1:9-28). The evidence for creation compels us to honor the Creator who is blessed forever (Rom. 1:20, 25). The earth serves God’s purposes: “You laid the foundations of the earth, so that it should not be moved forever” (Ps. 104:5). Among these purposes is the earth sustains our life (Gen. 1:29-30). Some make doomsday predictions of the earth’s demise unless we stop changing the world’s climate. We have an impact on our environment, no doubt. As stewards of God’s creation, we ought not carelessly abuse the earth but carefully tend to it (Gen. 2:15; Ps. 8:3-8). Its resources are God-given and blessings to be used with careful responsibility. We should also admit that climate changes. It has done so since the beginning of time (Eccl. 1:3-11). Weather events, seismic shifts, volcanoes, animal extinctions, and human development impact the earth. They result in droughts, famines, diseases, and many catastrophes. Despite all this, God said He rules the earth. Man will not turn the planet into a utopian existence. Earth remains because of God’s kindness toward us, not due to humanity’s rule over it (Acts 14:15-17). Instead of being driven by fear that the world will end through human-made climate changes, let us be responsible stewards of God’s blessings and put our faith in Him. He renews the face of the earth. His glory endures forever. “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease” (Gen. 8:22).
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1, NKJV)
Beginnings. Every New Year’s Day, people worldwide reflect on the previous year and resolve what they will do during our next 365-circuit around the sun. It is a perfect moment to remember who created the heavens and the earth and, therefore, time itself. With the precision that defies random chance, the earth sits on its tilted axis, rotating to produce night and day (not to mention gravity). This well-arranged order also gives the earth its seasons, protecting us from the sun’s otherwise harmful and deadly effects while sustaining plant, animal, and human life. God did that (Gen. 1; Psa. 33:6-9; Jer. 51:15-16). The hubris of humanity dares to think humans control this globe. God said to Job, “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place” (Job 38:12)? We neither control the morning light nor the dark of night; God does. How foolish it is to think humans control the heavens and the earth! “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:4-7)? Pause as another year begins to give thanks to God, our Creator, and Sustainer. Thank God for your life, and especially for the life He gives you in Christ (Rom. 6:23). There is no better beginning to your new year.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 1 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2 Corinthians 4:16–5:1, NKJV)
The inspired apostle uses a series of contrasts to buoy the faith of Christians during uncertain, turbulent, and trying times. Let us meditate on these points of truth and “not lose heart” (be discouraged), but be refreshed daily by the sure hope we have in Jesus Christ.
1) Outward person perishing v. Inward person renewed daily.
2) Momentary light affliction v. Far more abundant, eternal glory.
3) Visible things are temporary v. Unseen things are eternal.
4) Our earthly house (the tent of our mortal body) destroyed by death v. An eternal, heavenly building from God inhabited by our immortal bodies).
The Christian’s hope is not on earth, and never will be. Our hope is laid up for us in heaven (Col. 1:5; 1 Pet. 1:3-4). Therefore, live for heaven with joy in Christ (Matt. 6:19-21).
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. (2 Peter 3:10, NKJV)
What is God’s plan for the earth? Jehovah’s Witnesses say the earth will become a paradise on which “God will bless obedient people with perfect health and everlasting life” (“What Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe?”). The Seventh-day Adventists claim, “God will recreate our once-stained world, and live with us forever. We will finally achieve our true potential, living in the love and joy for which God created us” (“The New Earth”)? Modern advocates (N. T. Wright, Douglas Moo, and John Mark Hicks) have restored these views of the earth’s future. This New Creation Theology is being accepted and advanced by some brethren, but it is not new at all. It is an old false doctrine that reconstructs the “new heavens and a new earth” with forced definitions and materialistic narratives (2 Pet. 3:13). It says we will not go to heaven. Instead, heaven will come down to earth. Let Peter settle the matter. On the day of the Lord’s return, 1) The heavens will pass away with a great noise. The sky and space will perish, even as the “old things” of sin “passed away” when we became new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). 2) The elements will melt with fervent heat. The fundamental elements that form the material world will evaporate. 3) The earth and its works will be burned up. God’s fiery judgment will disintegrate the planet and everything on it (2 Pet. 3:7, 10, 11-12). A new habitation (“new heavens and a new earth”) – “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” will be the eternal home of the redeemed (2 Pet. 3:13). New Creation Theology is old error.
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. (Matthew 5:13, NKJV)
Have you heard the expression, “he’s not worth his salt?” It comes from the days of the Roman Empire. “A soldier’s pay—consisting in part of salt—came to be known as solarium argentum, from which we derive the word salary. A soldier’s salary was cut if he “was not worth his salt,” a phrase that came into being because the Greeks and Romans often bought slaves with salt” (“A Brief History of Salt,” Time, March 15, 1982). Salt flavors and preserves food. It made a useful antiseptic before modern medicine. Israel offered salt in its offerings to God, perhaps as a token that their sacrifices were seasoned and preserved by the Sinai covenant (Lev. 2:13). Jesus said His followers are the salt of the earth, a timeless and easily understood metaphor. Christians (citizens of the kingdom of heaven), must be influences of righteousness in a world of sin and death. Our lives must flavor the world around us, influencing others to turn to God. We must guard ourselves against sin because it destroys godly influence. As contaminated salt lost its usefulness to flavor food and to disinfect was cast onto the foot trails (to avoid destroying fertile soil), the Christian who loses his godly influence is ineffective (even destructive) to the cause of Christ. A godly influence is needed and powerful. Protect your influence and season the world with righteousness (Eph. 4:20-24).