Jesus came to save sinners. His blood cleanses everyone from their sins. The Gospel (or good news) of Jesus is the offer of salvation. Salvation is open to all. However, there is a hard truth. Not everyone will be saved. Even Jesus does not paint a picture of universal salvation to all regardless of their belief.
In the 3rd chapter of John, Jesus had a conversation with Nicodemus and shared the fact that God’s love extends only to those who come to believe in Jesus. We are all familiar with John 3:16. We love to hear this. It’s reassuring. Yet, Jesus did not stop His conversation with that verse. Listen.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:16-21 NASB)
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus underscores that fact the only a few will be saved.
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13-14 NASB)
Only few find the way that leads to life. These are the words of Jesus. He then talks about examining the fruit of those who come and claim to be from God. It is easy to say they are from God or the serve God. However, look at the fruit they bear. Yet, there will come a day when they will be turned away from heaven.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23 NASB)
Given that there will be some who choose to follow Jesus and some (many) who will remain in darkness, there is a need to be prepared for the end. In Luke the 12th chapter, Jesus begins to call attention to things that will divide His disciples and also separate true disciples from nonbelievers. He cautions against the influence of the Pharisees which He calls hypocrisy. Hypocrisy, as we know is play acting. There are Christians who are play acting rather than truly following Jesus. Jesus calls for His disciples to be ready and willing to confess Christ even when it may bring on unpleasant consequences. Let’s spend a few minutes this morning looking in the 12th chapter of Luke. We will begin in verse 49.
“I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49-53 NASB)
While Jesus came to bring salvation, He also came to bring judgement. Those that refuse to believe Jesus will be without any hope. As Jesus is speaking, He knows that the time of judgement is not ready. He must face His own “baptism” of death before the judgement can be ready.
For many, the concept of the Messiah was the idealized image of King David ruling in a time of peace. Jesus leaves no doubt that choosing Jesus will put us at odds with many. We will risk losing our own family.
Up to this point, Jesus and His message had drawn a sharp line between those who were more into following tradition than serving God. The traditions had often allowed people to avoid caring for those in need. The pomp and circumstance of ritual overshadowed very things that were most important to God. In our responsive reading, we noticed that God will bring judgement to those who prefer ritual over justice. And God’s judgement is death. This judgement is pronounced on the sons of the Most High.
Next, Jesus talks about the signs. Most of you know that I avoid discussions of signs because we are told that none of us will know the day Jesus returns until it happens. For me, it is pointless to spend time speculating. There are a lot of people who spend energy and distract a lot of people pointing toward signs and times. Either Jesus is telling the truth when He said that no one knows the time or He is not telling the truth. If He is not telling the truth, then we should not be following Him. His injunction to us is to be ready. We are called to be ready for His return at every hour and every day. The fact that I don’t choose to be pulled into these speculations, does not mean that I ignore the signs; it means that I chose not to become entangled in meaningless speculations. Even Jesus knew that we observe the signs:
And He was also saying to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming,’ and so it turns out. And when you see a south wind blowing, you say, ‘It will be a hot day,’ and it turns out that way. You hypocrites! You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why do you not analyze this present time? (Luke 12:54-56 NASB)
It is easy to observe certain signs and be able to predict the weather. Just as Jesus tells us here, we see clouds and know that rain is coming. The wind blowing out of the South indicates that it will be warm. These are not difficult to understand. Jesus is telling us that as we look at the things going on in the world, we should be able to see how the hand of God is directing the change and the coming events. Look at the prophet in the Old Testament. They told of foreign nations conquering the nation if they failed to turn back to God. It happened. It happened with the Northern Kingdom and later with the Judah. The signs were there and the signs are present today.
So, what does Jesus tell us to do? We see the signs and there is a call for us to act.
“And why do you not even on your own initiative judge what is right? For while you are going with your opponent to appear before the magistrate, on your way there make an effort to settle with him, so that he may not drag you before the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I say to you, you will not get out of there until you have paid the very last cent.” (Luke 12:57-59 NASB)
The signs are pointing to the fact that we are approaching the day of judgement. We are called to reconcile with the accuser. Our sins separate us from God. To continue in our sins while trying to serve God is the ultimate hypocrisy. The time to avoid the penalty of our sins is to act before we stand before the judge. Once we stand before the judge, we will pay the exact penalty for our sins. This is a hard truth. This may not sit well with those who only want to look at the love of God without seeing that He calls for us to change into the new creature renewed in the likeness of Christ.
I invite you to consider these two points:
Do you wish to see God’s love? Look at the Cross.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NASB)
Do you wish to see God’s wrath? Look at the Cross.
If God did not spare His own son but made Him into a sacrifice for our sins, then we need to look at the cross and ask: how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? (Hebrews 2:3 NASB)
God’s love and His wrath are revealed in the cross. There is an invitation that extends from the cross.
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.
“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. (Revelation 22:14-17 NASB)
Now is the time to make things right. Before we stand before the judge. The invitation is extended and it is from Jesus.