I have a large dog. When I sit down, she often comes to my side and leans her head against my leg or drops it in my lap. She wants me to scratch her ears. She likes it! If I stop, she often will nuzzle my hand until I resume the slow, rhythmic stoking of her ears. Then her eyes close, she relaxes, and sometimes (if it is quiet and she is undisturbed) her feet will slide out from beneath her and she will settle to the floor sound asleep.
In a way people are very much like my dog. They like to have their ears scratched – but not so much with strokes of gentle hands as the words people find soothing or comforting. They like to hear preachers that who preach “good news.” People want words that edify and comfort and build up and entertain. They don’t often like messages that challenge them, point out personal sins and faults. They want preachers who declare a message like pre-World War II British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared “Peace in our time.” Just consider the inspired words of the prophet Jeremiah: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’”
That isn’t what Jesus says, is it? Hardly! Jesus declares, “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”
The effect of Jesus’ message is devastating to any and all sinners. The world militates against Jesus’ message because that message requires a repudiation of conventional wisdom and “common” sense. Satan hates Jesus’ message because he knows that he cannot prevail against it. Our own sinful nature rebels against it because we don’t really want to have anyone as Lord and Master over us. We want to do what we want, when we want, in the way we want. Period!
So, Jesus cast His fire on the earth. It is God’s truth revealed. It is embarrassment and shame over sins committed or responsibilities shirked. It is self-recognition that we are sheep gone astray. Then we will recognize and acknowledge that we are imperfect creatures who have not loved God with all our being; and have failed to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Our Lord Jesus has truly cast fire upon this earth and His work will not be completed until the last soul is saved from condemnation to hell. Do you feel the heat? You should. So long as there are empty pews in our churches or headlines in our papers there is work to be done. We Christians are not insulated from this world and its evil. We are in this world to bring the message of our Lord Jesus to a world that is dying in its sin. We are to celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ came into this world to seek and save sinners. We who stand at the foot of the Jesus’ cross are no better nor worse than any other sinner. We are simple sinners who by the grace of God have heard and believed the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As Christians we are to demonstrate by our words and our lives what it means to be born again –transformed by the Holy Spirit into missionaries and disciples and apostles who carry and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ wherever we go and in all that we do.
We don’t scratch itchy ears. We don’t proclaim lies for the sake of political expediency. We preach Christ and Him crucified, risen and ascended for the salvation of souls and the glory of God. Anything less, anything else, is less than scratching my dog’s ears.
We pray: Come Lord Jesus and save us! Make us bold to proclaim Your gospel to the people of our world. We pray in Your powerful name. Amen.