Thursday, May 22, 2008

Jesus Came to Bring Fire to the Earth

In Luke 12:49 Jesus tells us that he has come to the earth to bring fire, and adds “I wish that it were already kindled.” In our church we sing some worship songs that cry out for God to send us His fire. What might that mean? What did Jesus mean when He said He’s come to bring fire on the earth? Do we know what we’re really asking for?

The first thing Jesus means by this has to do with “judgment.” For many people the idea of judgment is offensive. It’s one of the things some people don’t like about Christianity. But the Real Jesus did talk about fire and judgment and crisis, and I think that’s a good thing and to me it makes a lot of sense. And, by the way, anyone who says it’s wrong to talk about judgment is themselves making a judgment. So I conclude that the judgment-thing is unavoidable. The deeper issue is always: what is the truth? All truth divides.

In Luke 3:9 Jesus says that “every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” Jesus views people, and you, like fruit trees. You exist, from Jesus’ POV, to produce fruit. In this regard there are only two kinds of trees; viz., trees that bear fruit and trees that don’t bear fruit. There are no quasi-fruit-bearing trees. This is an either-or situation (also called, by theologians, “Two-Way Theology). To bear fruit or not to bear fruit; that is the question. To find the answer to that question is, precisely, to render a judgment. The fire Jesus brings renders such a judgment.

From this it follows that Jesus-fire purifies. A refiner’s fire falls on a lump of gold and burns away all impurities and leaves pure gold (Micah 3:2-4). In this sense such a fire, ipso facto, judges. It burns away the “either” of impurity and leaves the “or” of pure gold. In this sense, when you cry out to God “Baptize me with fire!” you’re asking for God to refine your heart so that He will burn away impure things and leave a heart pure towards Him. It’s a heart-cry for holiness. It’s a way of seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness. Jesus says that He came to bring fire to the earth, and part of what this means is that He came to call forth a pure “Bride.”

Fire-baptism is also about an impartation of power given by the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist said that after him comes a more powerful One who will not baptize with water but baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Luke 3:16). The initial Spirit-fire-baptism happened in Acts 2, where the Holy Spirit comes on people accompanied by what look like “tongues of flame” (Acts 2:3). This Spirit-baptism-fire event brings “power” (Acts 1:8-9) for real Jesus-followers to be His “witnesses.”

So, when we cry out to God, “Baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire,” we’re asking God for two things: 1) purification of the heart; and 2) power to be witnesses to Jesus and His Kingdom and all that this entails. And it is precisely this that then makes a separation or division. It creates a di-vision; viz., two visions of reality, or two visions of the truth.