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Settling Your Debt with God

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Luke 12:49–59

As it was for Jesus, so His followers may face very difficult times in this world. Their suffering, however, will be limited to this world. In contrast, a terrible, eternal judgment awaits those who reject Christ. Jesus Himself gives us all fair warning.


There is an oft-repeated legend in Christian circles, and the word legend is appropriate. The principle, however, is certainly true.

It’s the legend of Satan calling a council of demons to determine the best strategy for keeping people from believing the truth of the gospel. One group of demons presented their case that what they would do is deceive people into believing the gospel is not true. And Satan said, “That will certainly work among many people.” And it certainly has.

Another group of demons disagreed and said that what they would do is tell people that Christianity is true, but other religions are equally true. Even though Satan knew some people would figure out that many roads actually lead to many different gods, not the same God, he agreed that this approach would deceive many people.

Finally, a third group said, “No, what will work universally among all of humanity is this: we plan to tell them that it is all true—that Jesus is the only way, that there is a real heaven and hell, that they need to believe the gospel. We will tell them all of that, but we will convince them that there is plenty of time.

And Satan said, “That strategy will work best of all.”

I find it interesting that as the Lord’s ministry attracts more and more people—and the Gospel of Luke tells us that they are following Him by the thousands—the Lord often stops and warns them of the coming judgment of God. He is telling them there is not much time.

We are back today in Luke chapter 12, where the Lord stops once again and delivers what would have been a rather shocking message. Let me categorize His warning under four statements.

First, Jesus reminds them of something that has been promised. He says in verse 49, “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!” Jesus is warning this massive audience of a coming firestorm of judgment—and He is claiming to be responsible for sending that judgment. People think all Jesus ever taught was the Golden Rule—be nice to people. Well, this does not sound like the Golden Rule to me.

This opening phrase here, “I came,” or “I have come,” is a technical term used to refer to the [scope] of His mission.[1] Part of Jesus’ mission is to bring judgment upon the earth. This is the other side of Jesus the world out there does not want to hear about. They are not interested in hearing about judgment, which is why they want to keep quoting the Golden Rule.

What is the fire going to involve? Well, the apostle Peter answers that in detail over in 2 Peter 3, where he writes this:

[Scoffers] deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and … the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. (verse 5-7)                                                                                                           

This fire of judgment has not been kindled yet; it will take place, according to Revelation 20, at the end of the millennial kingdom. At that time unbelievers from all of human history will be brought before what the Bible calls the great white throne—the throne of blazing purity—to be judged by God.

Now if your faith today is in Christ, you have nothing to worry about. This judgment is not for you at all. But Jesus reminds His audience of something that has been promised—the coming fire of judgment.

Second, Jesus informs them of something He wants to move past. Back in Luke 12, Jesus says in verse 50, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!” This is an unusually transparent revelation of how the Lord is feeling as He draws closer to His crucifixion. Luke is the only Gospel writer to include this moment where Jesus reveals how He is feeling.

He is distressed over what it will mean when He is baptized—immersed—in our sin. He will bear in His body all our sin (1 Peter 2:24), have all our iniquity placed upon Him (Isaiah 53:6), be saturated with the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2), and be separated from fellowship with God the Father for the first and only time as He suffers the eternal penalty for our sins (Matthew 27:46).

Jesus wants to get past this event. By the way, this transparent admission from our Lord ought to destroy the false spirituality of Christians who think it is a sin to admit discouragement or distress with some ordeal they are facing.

Beloved, perhaps right now you are distressed to the breaking point. Jesus knows exactly what that feels like and will comfort you. He is your very present help in time of trouble (Psalm 46:1).

Third, the Lord warns His hearers of something that will soon take place. The believers in the crowd, in fact, are about to feel pressure like they’ve never felt before. Jesus makes this clear as He continues in verse 51:

“Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. . . . father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (verses 51, 53)

Today, in many countries it is illegal to convert to Christianity. Family members will even conspire with the government to expose a new believer, which for the Christian amounts to a death sentence. Following Christ might not mean a death sentence for you, but it might mean your family’s disapproval.[2]

So, the Lord warns them of something that has been promised (judgment), something He wants to move past (crucifixion), and something that will soon take place (family division).

Now, fourth, the Lord rebukes them for their failure with something in the present. Listen to His words:

“When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” (verses 54-56)                                                                                               

They can predict a coming rainstorm but not the coming storm of judgment.

Jesus then reminds them that it is much better to settle a debt out of court than to face the judge. In other words, you do not want to stand before the Judge of the universe. There’s no appeals court, there is no pardon, at the great white throne. Settle your debt of sin with God today.

How? Jesus said back in verse 50, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!” That Greek word for “accomplished” means “paid in full.” It was a word used for a criminal who paid the penalty for his crimes.

Just before He died on the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), using the same Greek word for “accomplished.” Jesus was saying, “I have fully paid the debt of sin.”

So, you can now settle your debt out of court. The punishment for your crimes, your sins, has been paid for by Christ. You will never stand before Him in judgment, if you have stood before Him in faith at that old rugged cross.

There is a storm coming—the storm of God’s judgment against all who refuse His sacrifice on the cross. Settle with God today before it is eternally too late.

[2] Bruce B. Barton, Dave Veerman, and Linda K. Taylor, Life Application Bible Commentary: Luke (Tyndale, 1997), 333.

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