Good morning friends! Jesus said this powerful and profound truth in Mathew 5:13: "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again." Everybody wants to make a difference, but I’d like to talk candidly today about why so many of us don’t. It’s because we have lost our flavor. So how do we become salty again? Last week, JT taught about staying salty and brightening things and moving up to the big people table and even fasting one day this week… Still don’t like that Turmeric stuff in my food though!
These verses I just read, here in Matthew, are a plea from Jesus to go back to the basics. Because when Christians are not salt and light, the world around us stays dark, unflavored, rotten, and broken, which it really is right now. How did we lose our saltiness? How did we darken our light? In a few minutes, I’m going to give my answer - really God’s answer – because mine doesn’t matter. And some of His words may sound antiquated, or judgmental, or negative, but stick with me if you want to know.
Our world is in deep trouble...is that not true? Even those who don’t believe in Jesus, the church, or the Bible know something is wrong/broken. BTW - people in our world are actually searching for the truth Jesus provides, whether they realize it or not. But by anybody’s standards, things are bad right now.
Today, as I record this message for TV, we have a new president, and I pray for President Biden and his administration, but I have zero hope in him or the government to fix what’s wrong, because it’s a spiritual problem, not a political problem. (And just in case you think it’s because he’s a Democrat, I had zero hope in a 2nd Trump administration, too!) I have great hope a vaccine will be effective to fix COVID, but I have zero confidence it will fix the root issue of humanity - Sin. Because the heart of the human problem, is the problem of the human heart.
We pray for righteousness to be seen, but it appears just the opposite is happening. The world seems to be spiraling downhill toward disaster. The breakdown of the family and marriage, abortion, although forgivable, is still way too prominent and acceptable (I’m reminded of that on National Right to Life week), the increase in suicides, the proliferation of pornography, the corruption of political leaders, the incivility of public discourse, the curtailing of free speech, the escalation of profanity, the racial inequality and unrest, the rise in poverty, the rioting in the streets and capital, the ridicule of the Bible, the disharmony or declining attendance/engagement in the church, the compromising of the truth by spiritual leaders – now I’m depressed! But the list goes on and on. It seems as though evil is winning and the church appears to be losing.
Our culture is coming unraveled right before our eyes, but we should not be surprised. That is precisely what the Bible prophesies will happen toward the end of time. Consider these predictions from 2 Timothy 2:22-3:5… And then 2 Timothy 4:1-4…
TV journalists, pundits, and politicians are not the God ordained conscience for a nation - that responsibility rest on the church, especially on its called out voices, teachers, and leaders.
Many of the minor prophets in the Old Testament spoke in times that saw Israel at its best, but also at its worst. And the main reason for the spiritual moral collapse of their country was succinctly articulated in Hosea chapter 4. It says, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." Knowing the right information leads to transformation.
And it was also because even the priests/teachers then were not themselves distinctly different. And within the next half century, Israel ceased to exist as a nation. I’m a proud American citizen, but I am not lobbying for a new Christian Nationalism, that’s not the answer. I’m pleading for God’s people in His church to be truly God’s salt and light. Because when the church is working right, there is nothing better and it is unstoppable.
So listen, be challenged, but be encouraged child of God. When things don’t seem to be going the right way in your home, your work, and your country, don’t get discouraged for we know the final chapter of our story as the church. We know that Jesus, The King is coming and that no one and nothing can stop him. You can try fire, but he will quench it. You can try water, but he’ll walk on it. You can try the grave, but he’ll break open the tomb.
But, friends, we should not be surprised by the escalation of evil, darkness, and trouble. This is exactly what the Bible predicts will happen. When you hold up these scriptures against the backdrop of culture, it is sobering, but also convicting. And one of the reasons the world is in the shape it’s in, is because of us. Christians have lost their credibility and punch. We are no longer being salt and light to a decaying and dark world. Being a Christian is radically counter-cultural, and our culture, sadly, often doesn’t see any difference between us and themselves. No wonder they are not listening. Our walk doesn’t match our talk. And they are also not listening because we as a people have lost our distinctive Christian worldview.
In light of Martin Luther King, Jr. day this week, Pastor James Emery White wrote a fascinating article entitled ‘Would Martin Luther King, Jr. be heard today?’
He wondered if Dr. King’s words would make an impact with the challenges of our current context. He says no. Why? Because it was a prophet’s voice based on a thorough
Christian worldview. A worldview driven by a set of ideas by which you judge all other ideas. It is “a way to engage constructively the whole range of human expression from a Christian perspective.”
A worldview that says because we were created, there is value in each person. There is someone above and outside of our existence who stands over it as authority. Because of this answer, Martin Luther King, Jr. could write the immortal words found in his jailhouse correspondence – Letters from a Birmingham Jail:
“... there are two types of law: just and unjust.... A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of
harmony with the moral law.... All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality.”
King’s argument for civil rights was based on the worth of a human being bestowed upon by God regardless of what other humans might have to say; King laid claim to a law above man’s law. No other worldview would have given King the basis for such a claim.
But would such a worldview get a hearing today? Doubtful. Because it was based on something not of this world, that the world no longer recognizes. And there lies the irony - as a culture, we celebrate a man’s Christian convictions that were used to change our culture in the past, while simultaneously rejecting those values as a part of shaping our culture for the future.
It is peculiar – I noticed President Biden swore his oath on a family Bible, (pretty elevated position for the Bible) but do we as a church, let alone as a society still swear by/believe the words in this holy inspired, inerrant book? Do we still believe as Garth Brooks sang at the Inauguration, in Amazing Grace?
Simon Peter wrote this… 1 Peter 2:9-12. 4:3-5, 12-17
So let me recap. How did we restore our salt and light, according to Paul and Peter and God? How can we become salty again!?
Live distinctive lives. Be holy. Be different from the world. Don’t get caught up in the addictions, the hedonism, the hopelessness, and the angry spirit of the age. Be a light of integrity and peace, shining brightly in a dark, unethical world.
Anticipate God’s judgment. Make no mistake about it. Evil’s domination is temporary. God is no wimp. He is eventually going to say, “That’s enough!” “No more!” And He will judge the world for its sin. Just as God once cleansed the world with water, He will one day purge it with fire. He always does what He says He will do.
Be encouraged by Jesus’ promised return. Just as Noah’s family was lifted above the world’s destruction in the ark, so believers will be called out of this world and spared God’s judgment. I know it's bad and it's dark, but the Light of the world is coming soon.
Get excited about heaven. Peter says in chapter 3, “But in keeping with his promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” Perhaps the reason we get so easily discouraged is our focus is too much on this world. Maybe your present anxiousness is an inner reminder that your citizenship is in heaven, and you shouldn’t be too comfortable here. Friend, let me remind you, this world is not our home. We’re simply passing through. We’re going to be reunited with Christ and our Christian loved ones. We’re going to be free from sin, pain, guilt, fear, and death. There’s going to be a new heaven and new earth where you will have a new body.
In Scottsdale, Arizona is located Alcor Life Extension Foundation which is a cryonics facility. It is the home of the late baseball player, Ted Williams’ head. They have his body, too, but the two are stored separately. Cryo-preservation is the storage of a body or a head in a suspended, frozen state. And it’s expensive – upwards of $200,000! There are currently 181 “patients” at the facility. I got to thinking, if any of those 181 “patients” at Alcor are Christians, they’ve obviously the frozen chosen! (Sorry, the jokes don’t get any better!)
The idea for cryonics is that when a cure is found for whatever caused the death, then a body can be built to attach to the head! Dr. Ralph Merkle, inventor of public-key cryptography has said, “Cryonics is only an experiment. So far, the control group isn’t doing very well!” Really???!!!! Alcor’s slogan is, “Freeze, Wait and Reanimate!”
I’m so glad Jesus has a better plan for our bodies and our souls. So take heart in Jesus' words, "In this world you will have trouble, but I have overcome the world."
Like last week, these are high challenge words. I have seen a lot in my day, and I fear the church and Christians have been tempted to be like the world to win the world to our cause. But if not careful, we will be more like the world, than like Christ. I have helped lead many changes to make it easier for people to find help and hope in Jesus, but what cheers my heart even more is that no matter what has changed, God has not changed. The Bible has not changed. God‘s truth has not changed. The blood of Jesus has not changed. God still has the solution to our problems and that has not changed.
See, Jesus didn’t come to just raise the dead, though he did raise the dead. He didn’t come to heal the sick, even though he did that. He didn’t come to cast out demons or feed the hungry, although he did all those things. All those things were ancillary to the main thing he came to do. Jesus would have been a tremendous leader of social reform. In fact, without it being his primary task, he did more to revolutionize society than anyone else before or since. But his work never found him advocating the overthrow of the Roman Empire or its oppressors, opposing a corrupt tax system, or crusading for many of the social issues many of us hold dear.
Instead, he said to carry a Roman soldier's pack two miles, when compelled to go one. To pay our taxes and that there would always be those among us who are poor. He could’ve healed all the sick and dedicated himself to relieving human suffering, but his relief of suffering was tempered by his awareness that the most hideous human suffering now and in eternity is the result of the bondage of sin. He came, as we also should, to seek and save the lost. That's why we are to be Salt and Light, and Brighten with Flavor. See you next week.