Sunday, December 13, 2015

Matthew 5:13 - CHRISTIAN INFLUENCE #1 - You are the Salt of the Earth

The climate   summit in Paris  to curb emissions of the heat-trapping gases that apparently threaten to wreak havoc on Earth's climate system has come to an end this past week. Nations are asked  to  work together to reduce global warming  by 2 degrees CelsiusCNN reported yesterday:  “failure to set a cap could result in superdroughts, deadlier heat waves, mass extinctions of plants and animals, megafloods and rising seas that could wipe some island countries off the map. The only way to reach the goal, scientists say, is to eliminate fossil fuels.[1]  

Whatever we may think  of the politics of global warming, the  fact remains  that the citizens  of theearth are asked to co-operate  for  a change in thinking  about the  future  of our planet.  

So here is a question for us, who call  ourselves  Christians:  
“Do you believe  that  your life can make a difference in this world“?  
And here  we are not talking  about  leaving the car at home  and thinking about cycling or walking to work this coming week. Here we are talking about  something far profounder and  far more fundamental  and it  is  contained in these words  of Jesus  which we have just read.

A word about  our context is in order.  
This piece of Scripture is found in  the context of the Sermon on the Mount  which encompasses  Matthew  5 to  7.  The opening verses  of  this Sermon, the Beatitudes in Chapter 5, verses  1-12 are  seminal, for here the Lord Jesus  teaches us concerning the essential marks of Christian character[2]

So, you say you are converted? 
You say  that  you have repented from your sin and turned to Christ?
The question now becomes: "How do I know,  and how does everyone else  know that  one is a Christian?"  
It is not good enough to revel in the fact that you are a Christian. You must live like a Christian [3].  Here are the marks of a true Christian as they are revealed to us in the Beatitudes:
A Christian  knows their own poverty before God  (v.3)
A true Christians mourns  because  of the sin that is in  the world (v.4). 
A Christian is  a strong person, and yet  meek (v.5)
A Christian  hungers and thirsts for righteousness (v.6). 
A Christian is merciful (v.7)
A Christian  is pure in heart (v.8) 
Christians  are  not troublemakers  but  peacemakers (v.9)
... and yet paradoxically  because of their Christ-like attitude  they are often  persecuted (v.10)

These are the typical  actions and attitudes  of the true Christian. They  are    not known primarily by their words, but by their fruit  (Matt. 7:20).

And now following the  Beatitudes  Jesus  proceeds to show us  how a Christian life  ought to affect or influence  their surroundings.   In order to illustrate  this  influence   He  makes use of two metaphors , Salt and Light.

A.     V.13  “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has  lost  its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 

Three observations :
·         The Christian life is meant to be lived and expressed in the earth (world).
·          The effects of living the Christian life are comparable to the effect that salt has on its environment.
·          ‘Salt -less’ Christians are contradictions in terms and useless for  kingdom purposes.
1.         The Christian life is meant to be lived and expressed in the earth

The  first significant  aspect of the Christian  life  as described in the Beatitudes  is that it is meant to be lived out  in the context of this  earth  which  is subject to so much sin, pain  and  suffering. The Christian is born again in this world and Christians  must  learn to live out  their faith in this world. When you become a Christian, God does not transport you to another planet. 
Neither does He place you into a  protected environment. 
Christians are not given separate cities  to live  in[4]
They are not  given a Christian country for themselves.  

Christians  are called   out of the world to live in this world - in the midst of  ungodly,atheistic, agnostic  and idolatrous  values.  In this world  Christians must be nurtured and  be raised to the glory of God. 
What a challenge!  
The  Christian  shares a common humanity with the world, but through the new birth, the Christian has received power and desires to think and act differently to the norms of this world. The contrary nature of their thinking  and acting has already been explained in vv.  2-12.  

It appears to be a strange paradox by which the Christian must live in this world.  The Christian is told that he must live in this world, and yet he is not of this world. He is ultimately not a citizen of this world. Jesus, in His High priestly   prayer (Jn. 17) prays to the Father concerning His disciples, says on the one hand, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of it" (Jn.17:16) and yet  He prays: "...take them not out of the world, but protect them from the evil one." (Jn.17:15)

The very thought that Christians can exert a healthy influence in the world should cause us to sit up and take note.  
What lasting influence  can the poor, the mourning, the meek, the merciful, the pure, the peacemaker have in this world?  
Will they not simply be trodden upon or persecuted, as suggested in vv. 11-12
How will they survive in an aggressive, self- centred  world where things can seemingly only get done through  assertiveness, brutality and selfishness?  
It is evident that Jesus does not share my scepticism! 
He tells His disciples that they are to be "salt and light" in this world despite the fact  that it may not go well with them.
The major question  therefore is  this: How can Christians, with  such feeble  attitudes and influences exert a powerful influence in  this world? 
In this text we have an answer to this question.

2.      Salt has an  Effect  on its Environment.

"You are the SALT of the earth". This is not only a description of the Christian and what his influence will be like in the world, but it also tells us something by implication what the world is like.
Salt! That  metaphor describes  Christian influence  well.  Christians  are to act  like salt.  Salt  is a preservative.  Christians  are the preservatives of the earth. This implies that the earth without the presence  and influence of Christians  rots.  Decays is in fact written into the DNA of this earth. It is confirmed by scientific observation – the 2nd law of Thermodynamics. Nothing lasts for ever. Everything grows and dies. 

But it is also a spiritual observation.  The Bible teaches us that man is not naturally tended towards good. Leaving a child to grow up by itself will not make it better. Life needs a restorative power. That restorative  power  is provided by God through His people.  The church of Jesus  Christ has been given for the healing of the nations. 

The church preaches the gospel and people are saved  through the preachers’ life –giving  Word of God, as  the Holy Spirit  opens ears, eyes and hearts.  People  are plucked out of the fire and they  are justified by grace through faith
But that is not all. Now they must be discipled.  That is the process of sanctification.  They must grow out of their sin and  they must grow into Christ. The church, that is the sum-total of all  Christians must  do the preaching that leads  sinful men  and women away  from  damnation  to justification, and the church  must do the preaching that leads to sanctification.  The  great  work of the church is to  worship  and to work.  From worship on  Sunday we go into the  working week  meeting with  broken  sinners, broken by personal sin  and broken  by being sinned against.    We work against the tide  of destruction, and we bring the salt of Christ’s gospel  with us.

Jesus’ disciples, Christians people  are the salt of the earth. They  are God's  preserving agent of society. The encouraging fact is that  a relatively small amount of salt makes a huge difference to the preservation  of meat.  A small church   filled with  true disciples of Jesus, with the heart  of a Christian described in Matt 5:2-12,  can have an amazing influence  upon their society. Christians do not have to be a majority in order to control their ever  decaying  society. 
In Namibia  that  certainly does not hold true. WE claim to be 90% Christian and yet  see very little real fruit for all our Christian profession. But  Christians that are truly salt  i.e. “that have salt in themselves” (Mk. 9:50)  can make a huge difference, even  though they are in the minority.  
Simply think of the influence which a Christian  has when they enter into a room  in which people are blaspheming and   gossiping.  The Christian's presence has an immediate effect. The Christian does not say a word, but   people immediately begin to modify their language. The Christian is  acting like salt. The Christian  is controlling their decadent language.  In the same way, a  honest  God fearing  Christian begets an ethical work environment. A holy pastor begets holy church members. 

From this perspective it would also  be unimaginable to think what would happen if you took Christians out of this world. The world  would bite and devour one another without  men and women   who  are  humble; who know themselves and who mourn because of sin. Imagine  there was no one  having mercy  and no peacemakers. If you take  Christians out of the world, it is just as good as saying  that you take the gospel out of the world, for  Christians  are the means  through which God acts as salt.

The stress is on the individual to be salt. All too often we hide behind an organization, without having salt in ourselves. We can see  this  chronic ineffectiveness in these large humanitarian organizations managed by  people that do a job but they have no  motivation to be there,  except to get their salary at the end of the  month. And then  take an exceptional  man  like  George Mueller of Bristol  who in his life time  led a humble organisation  which  cared for, clothed,  fed and educated  over 10 000 orphans. Think of a man like  C.H. Spurgeon whose church had 66 societies (including an orphanage)  for the biblical upliftment of humanity.

3.‘Salt-less’ Christians are contradictions in terms and useless for  kingdom purposes

Finally, Jesus speaks about  ‘salt-less  Salt’.  This is really a contradiction in terms. It is unimaginable for salt  not to be salty. And that is precisely the point here. Salt-less salt is useless. Jesus uses this terminology to describe the paradox of a Christianity  that  has no  effects upon its society. 
It is useless!  
He uses  very strong language,  “ It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men …”  
This is  the same as  what Jesus  says in  Matt 25:30 : “Throw that worthless servant outside into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth…”.  Salt-less Christians are  like fruitless trees. They are   a contradiction in terms. Therefore such will not be found in heaven.

This is no idle threat. 
This is a loving warning of our Saviour!  
Jesus is not interested in the fact that you are a mere member of your Church. Dead branches are also attached to a  vine,  and they  will be cut off.  
Swakopmund Saltworks 
  • Are you  a productive, preserving agent working together  with your church,  in this case  the "Swakopmund  Baptist  Church Saltworks"   for the preservation of this corrupt society? 
  • Are you  exercising  a healing ministry in this rotten world.

  • Don’t hide   behind the  church, and don't  say, "I'm a member of  a productive church  that has a lot of salt. I have a pastor   who has salt in himself ...".  The challenge for you is to “have salt in  yourselves!”  (Mk.  9:50)   
  • Stop the rot!  All the acts  of parliament will not stop  the rot. Well written  Newspaper articles  will not arrest the decay of your society. Obedient Christians  will!   
This and nothing less will preserve our society from decay, for this is God’s plan  for the church.  

[2] Dr.Francis Schaeffer called the Sermon on the Mount  the “Christian Manifesto” .
[3] James 1:22-27
[4] The  Monastic movement  of the 8th/ 9th Centuries attempted  to do this. 

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