Friday, October 11, 2013

Salt and Light, Pt 2: True Influence

Matt 5:13 "You are the salt of the earth;
Matt 5:14  You are the light of the world.
Have you ever noticed that when we talk about being salt and light in the world, it usually centers around us taking stands against practices we see as wrong and even evil? We have ministries to make us aware of laws that we can support or those we must oppose.We seem to think that participating in those ministries meets the requirements of this scripture. Now, do not misunderstand me, I am all for those things. We have that kind of ministry at my church and I praise God for it and participate in it.
In America, we the people, are responsible for the laws that are passed or rejected so we, as believers in Christ, should participate in the process. God has allowed us the privilege of electing people to represent us in government. We need to use that privilege to affect our culture as much as possible for good.
BUT, if we limit our understanding of these verses to just doing that, I think we are missing the boat and our influence may not be what it should be. So let’s take a closer look and see what these verses are telling us.
First, notice Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world.” Not ,“you should try to become” but you are. It is not something you do or say, it is who and what you are.
The word are in Greek is eimi and it means to exist. By virtue of your faith in Christ you exist as salt of the earth and light of the world! There is nothing that you can do to change that. You don’t make yourself saltier or brighter, but Jesus warns us that salt can become  useless. We can lose our flavor.In other words, we will have no effect or influence on the world around us.

Jesus also warned us about hiding our light. He did not say that we could extinguish the light but that we could cover it up. We are light but we need to let our light shine so that people can see our good works and glorify God, not us. The good works are not the light, we are the light. The good  works are only a demonstration that God is at work in us.
If the good works come out of living a life of faith in Christ, then our light is shining for all to see and God is glorified. If instead, we are like the Pharisees, doing it for show, God is not glorified and those works are wood, hay and stubble which will be thrown into the fire and burned.
So how is it that we lose our saltiness? How is it that our light can be hidden?
To understand that we need to look back at the context of this statement, starting in verse 3 of Matthew 5. Jesus was beginning the sermon on the mount and in verses 3-11 he describes a salty person, a born again believer who has the Spirit of God in them. (Get your Bible open!)
Note the qualities that we will see in that person
1 Poor in Spirit: knowing their sin and need for a savior
2 Mourner: one who mourns over their spiritual condition before faith and over those who are in lost condition
3 Gentle or meek: as opposed to proud and confident in themselves
4 Hungry and thirsty for righteousness: wanting to do the right things in God’s eyes
5 Merciful: demonstrating God’s mercy by extending it to others
6 Pure in heart: having been cleansed from sin by faith and recognizing the need for continual cleansing of sin.
7 Peacemakers: desire to bring peace to others by bringing them to the Prince of Peace, the only one who can give them real peace
8 The persecuted: those who are willing to acknowledge their faith in Christ and live according to His will no matter what the consequences
If we have lost our flavor, it is because we are not demonstrating these characteristics in our lives.
If we are not influencing the world for God, it is not because we are not speaking out on issues, it is because we are not living out our faith. We need to ask ourselves some important questions.
 Are we demonstrating the beatitudes? Have we lost our hunger and thirst for righteousness? Do we care more about the lost condition of the sinner than we do about their sin?
Are we still broken over our own sin or do we just pharisaically point out the sin of others? Do we extend mercy or only judgement.
Do we really want to see sinners saved or would we rather see them punished for their sin? Do we want people to know the peace that we have known in our Christian life?
Are we still willing to proclaim the love and hope there is in Jesus or are we too timid and afraid of persecution. Have we compromised and let the world influence us rather than us influencing the world.
I submit to you that if we are ineffective in our influence, it is not because of our failure to speak or act on issues, but instead, our failure to be that which Jesus called us to be. The point is that we need to understand that our influence in the world does not come from our trying to convince people that we are right on issues, but instead our influence comes from living a Godly life.
Think of the believers in the early church.How was it that they influenced the world that they lived in. We read in many of the New Testament letters that they suffered tremendous persecution but returned love. They lived out the beatitudes and the course of mankind was changed. I think about when I first read the sermon on the mount and how it seemed impossible to live out, but yet I had a burning desire to be that kind of person.
It took me many years before I understood that in my own power I could never be that person and that I needed the Holy Spirit to do that work in me. I learned that I could ask Him to accomplish it in me and that He would do it.
But I think that sometimes, after years of walking with the Lord, we can harden our hearts. We stop asking The Lord to make us more like Him. When we do that, we don’t continue to demonstrate those Christ like traits in our lives and so we lose our flavor, we hide our light and the world does not care to listen to us.
I really believe that rather than spending so much of our time trying to “fix” non believers thinking, we would do better to check our own lives to see if we have allowed our salt to become flavorless or have hidden our light under a bushel. If we really want to have that influence on the world we need to live in such a way that non believers want what we have. Then we have the opportunity to lead them to Christ. It is then that God opens their eyes to the things of the Spirit just as He did for us. That, I believe is how we can really see change, as God transforms each individual into the image of His own dear Son.
May God bless you as you let your light shine forJesus Christ,

Monday, May 27, 2013

Salt and Light? Part 1

Does it seem to you that we as Christians are having much success influencing our world for the better today? We look at what is going on in this country; abortion on demand, homosexual marriage, out of wedlock children, unimaginable violence and on and on and we must ask ourselves, “Are we having any influence at all?”
Why is it that we don’t seem to have the effect that we desire on our society? As we look at this subject with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I hope to shed some light and encourage and challenge us to do a better job.
We need to start by apprehending a couple of basic truths:
1.     There are really only two types of people in the world. Those who are born again and have the Spirit of the Living God in them and those who do not.
2.     If they do not have the Spirit of God, then their world view will be opposing yours and they cannot understand why you think so differently from them.
Don’t agree? Look at what Paul says in 1 Cor 2:14.  “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”
You see a non believer is going to reason according to their world view, which is the polar opposite of a Christian world view.  Take a look at this side by side comparison and see if you can get an idea of what I mean:

God =accountability                                              No God=no accountability

Creation                                                                                Evolution/Humanism

Absolute Truth                                                                    No absolute truth

Moral certainty (Biblically)                                              Moral relativity, situational ethics

Jesus=Savior, Lord, God                                      Jesus= good moral teacher if he

                                                                                      existed at all

 You can see why the non believer, with this world view, can justify all kinds of behavior that we would call ungodly or sin. After all, if there is no God to be accountable to, then I only have to worry about man and his ideas of right and wrong. If we are just a cosmic accident and evolved from some lower life form, then we could not have any real purpose in life. If that is the case, we might as well indulge in every physical pleasure there is.

The narrative usually then goes something like this, “sex, it’s just filling a biological urge so what does it matter who or what you engage with and why should it just be reserved for marriage. No one can actually tell me what I can or can’t do because what may be right or wrong for you is not necessarily right or wrong for me. Lying, stealing, and cheating? Sometimes those are wrong but in other cases it might be right. What about people that are hungry? Isn’t it ok if they steal some food? Why should I tell my wife that I had an affair, wouldn’t that just hurt her? Why shouldn’t I have an abortion, after all we don’t want more unloved and unwanted children in the world, right?”

I could go on and on but I think you get the idea. This type of world view, one that eliminates God and the Bible is bound to come up with answers and solutions to life that make no sense to us.

1 Cor 3: says,   For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.”

But, if you are going to have some influence in the world, you must understand the worldly point of view and why non believers think the way they do. If you don’t then you will find it impossible to communicate with them. This is what Paul meant when he said in 1 Cor 9:22, “ To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. “

You might be asking right now, “Why does all this even matter to me? I just want to go about my business and leave others alone.”

Well, maybe you have noticed that this world view, which has been perpetuated in public education and institutions of “higher learning” for over 40 years has not exactly led us to the highly evolved utopia that its’ endorsers have promised. Let’s look at a comparison that might put this in perspective. This list was posted in Readers digest a few years ago.

Top ten lists of discipline issues in school (I extracted only seven, couldn’t take much more)


1. Talking out of turn

2. Chewing gum

3. Making noise.

4. Running in the halls.

5. Cutting in line

6.Dressing code infractions.

7. Littering.


1. Drug abuse

2. Alcohol abuse                       

3. Pregnancy                            

4. Suicide.                                

5. Rape.                                   

6. Robbery                                

7. Assault                                 

It would be funny if it were not so tragic. And what solutions does the wisdom of man have for these issues? The pat answer for these problems is always the same. We need to spend more government money on education and solving poverty because that is why these problems exist.

And please, let’s not make any moral judgments concerning these issues. After all, we could not possibly look at the fact that in the 1960’s we took God out of the classroom, threw out any restraint on sexual behavior, tossed the idea that marriage between a man and a woman before having children was a good idea, gave up on respect for authority and accountability of parents or having to take personal responsibility for one’s actions.  None of these things could possibly have anything to do with this out of control behavior, right?

About two thousand years ago, the apostle Paul wrote concerning the state of the society he lived in.

Rom 1:18-32

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

Sound familiar? Sure seems to describe the world we live in today, does it not? We need to understand that those without the Spirit of God will not agree with us about these issues and trying to convince them that our value system is better can be pretty fruitless. Just as in Paul’s day, there are many people whom God has “given over” to their depraved minds.

“But, you ask, didn’t Jesus tell us to be salt and light in this world? So don’t we have to keep trying to convince them that they are wrong?”

I am glad you asked that because that is our text for the rest of this message which will be continued in part 2.

Thank you for reading and God bless you,