It’s a new year, and we’ve jumped into a new teaching series 'Brighten with Flavor' as part of our year-long journey through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount that we find in Matthew 5, 6, & 7…
Today, we’re going to look at Matthew 5 and wrestle with what it means for us to be the ‘salt of the earth', or another way to ask it, ‘how do we stay salty?' (in a good way). How do we make sure our lives genuinely make the lives of those around us better?
In Matthew 5:13, Jesus says: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."
Strong words from Jesus. So how do we stay salty?
This past week, as I was preparing this message, I found out more than I will ever need to know about SALT.
I found out how in ancient times, salt was commonly referred to as “white gold." Soldiers were paid their salaries in SALT. It was such a desired commodity, wars were fought over salt reservoirs.
During the Civil War, one of the first things the Union army did was to destroy the salt manufacturing plants in the southern states because of all the different ways the Confederate army used salt to help them during the war.
I don’t if you know this… Did you know the human body can’t live without sodium (salt). It is needed to transmit nerve impulses, contract and relax muscle fibers; including those in the heart and blood vessels. Our bodies also use salt to balance fluids in the blood and maintain healthy blood pressure.
SALT makes us better…
In cooking, we know salt brings out the flavor of whatever it is we’re preparing. It makes whatever we are making better.
Salt brings out the best…
Soooo… when Jesus says we (you and me) are the SALT of the earth, not only is he saying we are meant to make things better, but he’s also speaking the truth over us about how valuable we are to him as his children. We are his, God’s precious commodity.
Maybe you’re here today for the first time, or you’re checking us out online for the first time and you don’t feel like you are a precious commodity. Let alone that you are highly valuable to God. I want you to hear this today… there is nothing you can do to make God love you any more than he already does. There is nothing you can do to make God love you any less.
Nothing, no power on earth, no scheme of hell, nothing can ever separate you from God’s love. He's calling out to you today, saying, “Welcome home." He has a purpose and plan for your life… period.
Now, we may acknowledge that Jesus said we are the salt of the earth, but how do we actually brighten and enhance the spheres of influence we are in? How do we go from where we sit today to being salty Christ followers whose lives truly bring out the best in the lives around us?
I believe for us to stay salty, we first have to deepen our seasoning.
Just like different meals and recipes call for different seasonings, each of us will walk through seasons of life that will require a different level of seasoning.
You ever hear the phrase, 'he’s being seasoned as a leader?'
It means the leader is learning and growing, being equipped to be a stronger and more effective leader.
If 2020 taught me anything, it’s that each of us are being seasoned, we are being called into a deeper level of seasoning to prepare us for what lies ahead for each of us.
We’re always somewhere in a journey of preparation. Of becoming stronger, wiser, more compassionate, less boneheaded, more graceful.
That’s what it looks like to become mature in our faith. And, we’re all somewhere in that maturation process.
There is some area of our lives that God is calling us to go deeper, to graduate to the next level, to go back to school… in our relationships, in our faith, in our stewardship, in our trust, in our forgiveness, in our generosity, in our peace… in our ability to stay salty… to truly bring out the best.
I’m gonna take us on a journey to few different texts today, and I want to start with Hebrews 12:1-2.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith."
Ok… so if I want to grow deeper in my faith, if I want to ‘STAY SALTY’… my eyes need to be fixed on what??? Jesus. Ok, we all heard that. We’re all on the same page.
God showed it to me this way. As we grow up, in life and in our faith, there are different tables we’re going to sit at. Each table is a season of life where we are being seasoned. Things that we’re supposed to learn.
Our journey starts… at The KIDDIE TABLE.
When it comes to our faith, our relationship with God, our level of seasoning, this is the table where most of us spend the majority of our time.
Now listen, this is a good table. A lot of good stuff happens at this table. God meets us as this table. He’s with us at this table, so it’s all good. But this is elementary school. This is like in the beginning of our faith journey. At this table, we learn about a guy named Moses. One of God’s favorites, Moses lead God’s people out of Egypt rescuing them from slavery and death and taking them towards the promised land, the land God promised for His people. In Deu 8, Moses is describing this awesome land they’re about to go into…
In Deuteronomy 8:9-10 "It is a land where food is plentiful and nothing is lacking. It is a land where iron is as common as stone, and copper is abundant in the hills. When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the Lord your God FOR THE good land he has given you."
Here’s our Kiddie Table lesson… at this table we learn the “FOR THE” type of prayers. The FOR THE praise. Our relationship with God, our depth of understanding, our praise… typically starts or centers around “FOR THE." Where our faith is rooted in the Provision of God.
When my kids were little, we taught them a really simple prayer to say before we ate dinner, just something tangible for them to grab onto when they were toddlers. I’m sure you’ve heard something like this before:
GOD IS GREAT, GOD IS GOOD
LET US THANK HIM FOR THE FOOD…
BY HIS HANDS WE ALL ARE FED,
THANK YOU JESUS FOR OUR DAILY BREAD…. AMEN.
Back in Deu 8, Moses says “when you’ve eaten your fill… be sure to praise the Lord FOR THE good land he has given you.”
Thank him FOR THE good…
And listen… some of us need to get better at just this table. Cause there’s plenty of GOOD to be thankful for.
Thank you FOR THE…roof over my head.
FOR THE… running water.
FOR THE… food in my cupboard.
FOR THE… people around me that speak life.
FOR THE… spouse that makes me better.
THANK YOU FOR THE…
WHAT ELSE… Say em out loud…
FOR THE… pastors that go to spiritual battle for me week after week.
FOR THE… men and women who sacrifice their lives for my freedom and safety.
FOR THE… impact you allow me to have in my workplace.
Thank you God for the good!!!
But here’s the deal… this is not where our praise, our faith, is supposed to stay, this is where it begins. Remember this is the Kiddie Table.
And if we never graduate from the Kiddie Table of “FOR THE”… and our praise, and our faith doesn’t grow up and graduate to the next level, when all we got is a praise that says ‘thank you for the food… thank you for the house… thank you for the car… thank you for the raise… thank you for the relationship…. What happens when the food runs out, and the car is repossessed, and the house is in foreclosure… where’s your praise now?
If that’s as deep as your faith goes, that’s when we see people losing their minds when bad stuff happens. It’s ok… I still love you… I just thought your foundation would be a little bit stronger by now, you’ve been going to church for how many years now? Oh, it was just a Sunday thing… putting on a good front…
Your faith wasn’t really a priority, not really living it out every day of your life… Oh… that’s why your world is upside down and the sky is falling because they left you. Because you didn’t get the job you wanted, because things aren’t going your way… you’re a hot mess because that’s as deep as your faith went.
And here’s why… Because our focus was all out here. Looking around at all the stuff and people, and circumstances. Our focus is on the stuff and not the creator of the stuff. We need to “Fix our eyes on Jesus, the perfecter of our faith.” When our focus is wrong…. it’s time to grow up. It’s time to change where we look for our fulfillment. It’s time to graduate.
Over here… this is the next level up… this is the Big Boy table… this is the one everyone wants to be at but don’t always want to put the time in to get there.
At this table, we meet a guy named David. If you’ve been around church at all, you’ve heard some mention of David. David was a shepherd boy who slayed the giant Goliath. God chose David, a shepherd boy, to become King. One of the greatest Kings the nation of Israel ever had. The book of Psalms was written by David. And in Psalms 23, we find our next lesson… you may have heard it before.
"The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. EVEN THOUGH I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
This is the Big Boy table. This is the table where our eyes are fixed on the Jesus no matter what is going on around us. This is the "EVEN THOUGH" table, where our faith is rooted in God’s Presence, not just His provision.
EVEN THOUGH I walk through the darkest valley…
Even though the electric is off…
Even though they left me…
Even though things didn’t work out…
Even though I’m still at this same job…
Even though my hair won’t grow back…
Even though this life continues to throw everything it has at me, I still praise you.
I know you’re with me. Your goodness overwhelms me despite my current situation. This is where we graduate to a IT IS WELL level of faith.
You remember the old hymn… IT IS WELL? Sing it with me.
It is well, (it is well),with my soul (with my soul). It is well, it is well with my soul.
It’s a beautiful song. A song many people find comfort in during times of struggle and loss.
What some of you might not know is how this song came to be.
The song was written by Horatio Spafford, a successful lawyer from Chicago in the 1860s. He and his wife, Anna were well known for their faith and commitment to their church and community. In 1870, tragedy began to strike the Spafford family. Their son was killed by scarlet fever at the age of four. A year later, the great Chicago fire destroyed every single one of their real estate investments.
A year after that, Horatio sent his family on a vacation to England. Because of work, Horatio had to stay behind. While his wife and four daughters were crossing the Atlantic, their ship collided with another vessel and sank to the bottom of the ocean, claiming the lives of 226 people, including the lives of his four daughters. Horatio received a telegram from his wife that simply said “Saved Alone."
In a matter of three years, he lost his son, all of his investments, and now his four daughters.
Upon hearing the news, Horatio boarded the first ship to join his bereaved wife. During the voyage, while passing over the same place his family’s ship had gone down, Horatio looked out over the ocean, said a prayer, went below deck, and then penned the lyrics to the hymn “It is Well."
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
This table over here… is fine… this is good… but this is the remedial table.
But this… this is the table where we praise God EVEN THOUGH…
This is the graduate level where we can say EVEN THOUGH my heart is breaking, even though all hell is breaking loose, even though I can’t see a way out… IT IS WELL.
See, this is the table where you learn to thank god for what you can see.
This is the table where you learn to TRUST God for what you cannot see.
This is Big Boy table… this is grown folks' table. This isn’t the Kiddie table. There’s a choice to make. Are we only gonna thank him for the stuff and things, are you only gonna thank him for the fiancé or are you gonna thank him even though you’re still single?
This is EVEN THOUGH I’m walking through hell right now… EVEN THOUGH my husband just died… I lift my hands and give you praise. My eyes are on you. Cause I know you’re the only thing that’s gonna give me strength right now. You’re the only one who’s gonna keep me from losing my saltiness.
So… Where you wanna sit?
You wanna be a big boy or a baby? If you wanna be a big boy, you’re gonna have to learn to sit at this table. Where we learn to feed ourselves. At this table we learn to appreciate the seasoning of life.
Can we fix my eyes on Jesus… EVEN THOUGH….?
Now, there’s come a time when you actually can graduate to a PHD level with God, and this is no longer a table. This is where we’re invited into the Kitchen, to hang with the chef, to get to see how everything is being made.
In the Kitchen, we meet Paul. Paul is a dude that is the best of the best… he’s in the hall of fame of faith… he’s the GOAT. The majority of the New Testament is written by Paul. In the book of Philippians, Paul’s writing this letter while he’s locked up in a prison in Rome. And he’s serving it up in prison… But he’s got people all around him trying to stir up trouble for him. This is Philippians 1:15. Paul writes…
"It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And BECAUSE OF all this I rejoice."
We’re in the Kitchen now y’all… we’re hangin with the chef. This is where we learn “BECAUSE OF." We learn to praise God BECAUASE OF the Purpose that is found in what we’re going through.
I don’t praise him for the pain. I praise him BECAUSE OF the increase of PURPOSE that the pain provides.
Because of what He’s doing in me, through the pain. Through the storm. There is purpose in the pain.
He will work out all things for the good of those that love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
He’s cooking. He’s making something good. He doesn’t make garbage. He doesn’t make mistakes. He makes masterpieces. I don’t care what your mom told. I don’t care what your dad told you. I don’t care what your boyfriend told you. I don’t care what that boss told you.
God makes masterpieces. He’s cooking something. He’s mixing it up. Some ingredients taste good on their own. And you’re like, “Sure… add some brown sugar… you can add all you want." “Yeah, add some pink Himalayan sea salt… keep making me salty, Jesus.”
Other ingredients, not so much. God starts adding some things into our lives, and we’re like, “I’m not sure I like the taste of this, Jesus.” “Why you puttin' turmeric in there? Turmeric tastes nasty.”
Jesus is like “Shut up… I’m cooking… it may taste nasty, but this is Turmeric, this helps with pain relief and improves liver function… Don’t you know the stuff that we don’t like is most often the stuff that grows us the most?
"Yeah, but it tastes yucky, Jesus." You keep that up, you can go back to the baby table. You may not like the way it tastes, but you gotta trust the cook.
Some of you have those friends in your life, that if they’re cooking… you know whatever it is, it’s gonna be good.
Some of y’all have had a meal made by my wife, Kelly. In time, hopefully all of you will. She’s savage in the kitchen. But let's be clear, she’s savage everywhere. She’s a savage leader. She’s the strongest leader in this room. Fight me on this. I’m not just saying this because I’m her husband. I know this, BECAUSE OF what Kelly has gone through. BECAUSE OF what God has done in her. BECAUSE OF who she has become, BECAUSE OF seasons of loss, seasons of pain, seasons of sacrifice, seasons of despair, seasons of rejection, seasons of disappointment, seasons of scarcity, BECAUSE OF all that GOD has stirred in… Kelly is a leader worthy of following. You listen to her.
Like, when I ask our friends if they want to come over for dinner, they don’t ask "what are you having" or "what time", they just ask, “Is Kelly cooking?” Because they know they can trust the cook. You gotta trust the cook. Regardless of the ingredients, the cook is using. Yes, Kelly is savage in the kitchen, too. Those of you who have eaten at the table of Kelly, you know.
Some of us get so wrapped up in all these questions… Why is this happening? Why me? Why Turmeric? You want peace? You want to stay salty? Trust the cook.
He’s making something good. I know it hurts right now. I know it doesn’t make sense. I know your heart is so heavy and just feels like one more thing is gonna be the thing that breaks you. God is saying, “Trust me, I’m making something good right now, I don’t make junk, I’m making a masterpiece right now, I’m not going to fail you, I’m not gonna leave you, I’m working some things out.”
This is the place we all need to strive for… to hang out with the cook in the Kitchen. To get to that place where we can say, “I’m gonna praise you BECAUSE OF what you’re doing IN me. I’m praising you for the seasoning you’re giving me. Even though it hurts, I trust you."
What table do you find yourself at today?
PROVISION: I praise you FOR THE
PRESENCE: I praise you EVEN THOUGH
PURPOSE: I praise you BECAUSE OF
This week, I want to encourage you to choose a day to fast, to take something away, to make more room for God. In the midst of the hunger pains, I want you to ask God to reveal to you one thing you can do to help you move from one table to the next in your faith.
Every time we graduate from one table to the next, we are seasoned for greater impact for the Kingdom.
He is inviting you to the table today…
Stay salty, my friends.