Month: February, 2014

God Loves You

Pastor Dan Haugen

“God Loves You”

February 23, 2014

 

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

There once was two cats from Kilkenny   Each thought there was one cat too many   They fought and the spit,  They clawed and they bit,   ‘Til instead of two cats…..there weren’t any.

Today, we will talk about love. It’s a nice change from all the law we have heard lately, though, there are certainly requirements for the Christian here too. The Sermon on the Mount is hard for many to hear. It’s complete with lots of instructions on how one is to live a Christian life. It causes us to feel guilty when we see how far we’ve fallen away from where Christ expects us to be. Though Jesus tells us that we are obligated to do these things we know there is no hope for us apart from Him. If you have been a Christian even for a little while, you will know that love for one’s neighbor is Christianity’s greatest obligation and this one is probably the hardest for us to master.

Just as our opening limerick pointed out, it’s often hard for us to love, especially God’s way. You see, we have difficulty loving all people as God does because it’s not in our human nature to do so. Because of original sin we constantly have that Old Adam within us fighting to be satisfied. We all know that love is our greatest gift to others but we fight the urge to do what we should because we want our own form of justice.

We all suffer from a need for a self-conceived righteousness. If our neighbor wrongs us he or she deserves our wrath. If our spouse doesn’t agree with us, they deserve the silent treatment. If our kids make us angry, we demean them so as to put them in their place. Loving everyone equally as God does is impossible for us on our own.

Jesus quotes Leviticus 19 verse 18 which reads, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” Just a little reminder there, of who is ultimately in charge.

When Jesus taught this lesson, I believe He did so in part because the religious leaders had twisted the Scripture to fit their own sinful ways. They had gotten lost in themselves and, as a result, the definition for love in their eyes had changed dramatically from the way God had always intended love to be. Love here was measured in works and commitment to the law, not in relationship.

The story of the Good Samaritan was a good example of this kind of thinking. The religious leaders passed by the person in need because the law didn’t allow them to help, but the Samaritan was all about relationship and love for his fellow man. This is the way God intended us to act and this attitude is to be the greatest example of Christianity to the world. Hate your enemy has never been the rule, that has always been man’s design for his own self-righteousness.

The true commandment for all Christians  can be found in verse 44, “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Really? Love my enemies? Jesus Christ says absolutely!

We are to love even those who persecute us. When we hear people attacking our faith we are not to win them over with hatred but with love. When our neighbors wrong us we are to pray prayers of thanksgiving for them. When someone in our family hurts us or deceives us, we are to approach them just the way Christ would, with love and forgiveness in our hearts. Told you it wasn’t easy.

Romans 12:17-18 says, Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. We are never to payback evil with evil to anyone, no matter their offense. We are called rather to respect what is right and not bow down to what is wrong and, if there is any possibility of peace, that should always be our ultimate goal.

The account of the Sermon on the Mount in Luke tells us, “bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” God does not make this easy for us does He?

So what does it mean to bless? And where is the justice?  Proverbs 25:21-22 tell us, “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you. Justice should always be God’s call.

Not that we should be nice with sinister thoughts in our minds. God has shown us our part to play in our relationship with our neighbor. We are to treat them with love no matter what. God is the one to guide whoever is harming us. We are to take Jesus’ righteousness as our own because He won that for us on the cross, but we are to leave to God what is His – and justice is His.

In our relationship with others, often what passes for love is little more than a neat business transaction. People are kind to us, so we repay them with equal kindness. When they treat us unjustly, our negative response is really what they are asking for. We try to make everything balanced and fair. It is logical for us to make things even, even if it’s only in our own eyes that any sort of balance can be seen. An eye for an eye is what we live by.

But Christian love was never conceived by God this way. Christian love never settles for the reasonable. Rather, it insists on giving mercy as well as justice. It breaks the constraints of logic because this kind of love is not of the world.

General Robert E. Lee was asked what he thought of a fellow officer in the Confederate Army who had made some derogatory remarks about him. Lee rated him as very satisfactory. The person asking the questions was confused. “General,” he said, “I guess you don’t know what he has been saying about you.” “I know,” said General Lee, “But I was asked my opinion of him, not his opinion of me.”

God says we are to love all people, even our enemies and it’s hard to perceive doing that sometimes. Our natural impulse would be to send some of them straight to hell, but God asks us to do the seemingly impossible. He asks us to pray for them.

Our greatest example as to how to do this is Christ, who, even though He was suffering the greatest of torments, yelled out to His Father in heaven to forgive those who were killing Him. Stephen followed this very example and we bear witness to it in Acts 7: 51-60.  Stephen is talking to the members of the Sanhedrin, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Stephen understood the depths of Godly love. This love is the same love God asks us all to share with one another.

As we read in our passage in Proverbs, when we love our enemies, we receive the Lord’s reward. So what is this reward? We find it in verse 45, “That you may be sons (and daughters) of your Father in heaven.” Now that’s a reward loving for.

Ephesians 4:31-5:2 says, Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

When we are included into the family and inheritance of God, this is the way He expects His children to be. As we live this kind of life, we become a witness to the Father’s love. Through us, God shows love to all people, even those who are evil. This is a different kind of love then we could possibly hope for on our own. God’s love cannot be matched but it can be emulated.

Martin Luther had much to say on the subject of love and he noted the difference between the love of God and the love of man. He said, “the love of God does not find but creates that in which it delights; the love of man is generated by what it delights in.”

We were created out of love for God’s delight. We were created to be in relationship with the Creator and that relationship is to be crowned in love. There are no limits to God’s love and we could never conceive its riches, but we can do all that is human possible to match that love both for God and for each other.

Just like God does, we are called to love the unlovely into loveliness. Again Martin Luther says, “Sinners are lovely because they are loved; they are not loved because they are lovely. That is why the love of man avoids sinners and evil persons. But Christ says, ‘I come not to call the righteous but sinners. And this is the love of the cross, born of the cross, which commits itself, not where it may find something good to enjoy but where it may confer good upon the poor and the needy; for it is more blessed to give then to receive.”

When Christ died, He died for all. His love for all mankind is in equal shares. He died because He was different then the world. He loved even His enemies and He died even for those who nailed Him to the cross. This is the love of the cross that Martin is speaking of.

If we don’t love our enemies, then we are no different than the world. If we don’t love those who persecute us for Jesus sake, then we are not emulating the love that Christ has for us.

In the days of the American Revolutionary War there lived in Pennsylvania, a Baptist pastor by the name of Peter Miller who enjoyed the friendship of General Washington. There also dwelt in that town one Michael Wittman, an evil-minded man who did all in his power to abuse and oppose this pastor. One day Michael Wittman was involved in treason and was arrested and sentenced to death. The old preacher started out on foot and walked the whole seventy miles to Philadelphia to plead for this man’s life. He was admitted into Washington’s presence and at once begged for the life of the traitor. Washington said, “No, Peter, I cannot grant you the life of your friend.” The preacher exclaimed, “My friend, he is the bitterest enemy I have.” Washington cried, “What? You’ve walked seventy miles to save the life of an enemy? That puts the matter in a different light. I will grant the pardon.” And he did. And Peter Miller took Michael Wittman from the very shadow of death back to his own home in Ephrata — no longer as an enemy, but as a friend.

Our Gospel lesson ends with an impossible task, it says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We know that on our own, this is Scripture that will never be fulfilled. Sin has made our perfection impossible. Impossible on our own, yes, but not with God.

Because of what Jesus did, we are blessed to take on Jesus righteousness as our own so that our Father in heaven may look through the prism of Christ and see us untarnished by the world.

What this verse calls us to is Christian maturity. We are not called to live on the same level as the world. We are called to live on a level that is impossible without Christ. The point Jesus is making is that we must live in love by the power of God. He is calling us to submit ourselves and our many weaknesses to Him as He pours His strength into us. When we are weak, He is strong!

People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered. Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.

The biggest people with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest people with the smallest pride. Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for some underdogs anyway.  What you spent years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway!

Show God’s love to the world and be confident in that love. Amen.

Bible Study – Matthew 5:38-48

What characteristic is to distinguish a Christian from a pagan? What actions demonstrate this characteristic?

Verse 38 was standard teaching in the Old Testament Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21; But Jesus came to change that Verses 39-42; Romans 12: 14, 17-21;            1 Peter 2:23 Why?

A backhanded blow to the right cheek was an insult, the severest public disgrace one person could do to another Job 16:10; Lamentations 3:30; 1 Kings 22:24; Isaiah 50:6. What is Jesus asking us to do in the presence of insult? What does it look like today to turn the other cheek?

Public nudity was a great humiliation Genesis 3:7, 10-11, Genesis 9:22-23 yet Jesus says if someone sues you for your tunic, give him your cloak as well. The cloak was the key because it was very important for the Jew Exodus 22:26-27; Deuteronomy 24:12-13 in fact, it was the one thing you couldn’t sue for. What is Jesus teaching us here?

How does Philippians 2:5-11 help you understand better how to apply Jesus teaching in our text verses 38-42?

Why should we love our enemies? Verses 44-45. What does it mean to be “sons of your Father who is in heaven?”

Jesus said, “pray for those who persecute you,” How does prayer change the way we feel about someone?

How can we practice pity toward our enemies in the midst of a war on terrorism?

To what degree can you love those who hurt you?

Does God expect you to forgive all those who hurt you, or only those who have expressed sorry for having hurt you?

If kindness in the face of hate is “heaping coals on their head”, is such kindness a good or an evil?

Do you think the teachings in our text are targeted towards (a) individual believers, (b) citizens of a country, (3) governments, or all three? For example, do you think a policeman should turn the other cheek?

Bible Study Questions Matthew 5:21-37

In verses 21-24, what would a “brother” (adelfos) be? Leviticus 19:9-18

Is anger as bad as murder? Why or why not? (Think of it in Godly terms and in humanly terms)  1 John 3:15;

What is the evil in calling someone a fool (mwre)? (Side Note: Ge·hen·na – noun 1. the valley of Hinnom, near Jerusalem, where propitiatory sacrifices were made to Moloch. II Kings 23:10. 2. hell. 3.any place of extreme torment or suffering.) Psalm 14:1, 53:1; Matthew 23:17;                   1 Corinthians 15:36

How do you “settle matters” with someone according to this passage?

Is Jesus putting resolution above worship in verses 23-24? How does this apply to the Lord’s Supper?

Is appreciating a woman’s beauty a sin? Does this passage (v.28) apply to women?

What is the point of similarity between adultery and lust? 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Colossians 3:5; James 1:13-15; Matthew 6:22-23

 

As we often do, Jesus used exaggeration to make which important point in verses 29-30?

What does this passage say about divorce, and is this still valid today? Why have we strayed so far from this teaching?

When speaking of divorce here, it seems to be the man’s sin if his former wife remarries. Is the wife free from sin then in these cases? Why is it worded this way? Matthew 19:1-12

How does vs. 33-37 apply to us? Give an example. James 5:12; Hebrews 4:12-13; Leviticus 19:12: Exodus 20:7; Hebrews 6:16; Deuteronomy 23:21-23; Ecclesiastes 5:4-5; Psalm 24:3-5

Jesus says, “But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is His footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.” What does He mean? Isaiah 66:1-2; James 1:16-18

Where does truth come from?  John 14:6; Psalm 119:156-160

 

Do Not Commit Adultery

Pastor Dan Haugen

“Do Not Commit Adultery”

February 16, 2014

 

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

If you have heard any of my sermons, you’d know that I’m not a big fan of worldly values and, as hard as it is, I believe we have choices to make several times a day that concern them. Do I keep my mouth shut when someone says something contrary to my Christian values? Do I love my neighbor like I should? Do I put God first in all things? Do I truly value the relationships God has given me? These are questions we face with almost everything we do and, I believe, if we’re honest with ourselves, we follow worldly values much more then we should.

I want to take one section out of our Gospel lesson for this morning because I believe that, as always, Jesus was on to something. Jesus knew that even the thought of sin could lead to sin so he placed the thought as equal to the actual act.

Today, in society, one can hardly avoid the proliferation of sex and sexuality in the media. Sex sells, they say. I believe that this is true because of the temptation that so easily haunts us when we see someone of the opposite sex in a provocative illustration. We are hard-wired for it and Christ knew that to avoid the sin, we must avoid even the thought.

According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, there is an estimated 12 million sex addicts in the United States. Due to the accessibility of sexual material available on the Internet, cable television and videos, these numbers are increasing. Despite common misunderstandings, this addiction is not simply about “too much sex.” This goes much deeper and the result is lost trust, increased guilt, and divorce that is becoming systemic.

The commandment says, “You shall not commit adultery.” This is one value that the world has watered down so that it might continue with its passions. We’ve only to turn on our television or computer to see how acceptable infidelity has become. Hollywood has been given a great deal of power to change the way in which we think.

The Center for Media and Public Affairs did a survey back in 1992 and they talked to 104 leading television writers and executives. What they found is that their views differed dramatically from public perception. In the study they found that though 85% of Americans believe that adultery is wrong, only 49% of these writers and executives did. While 59% of the public believed in the right of abortion, (a number shocking enough) 97% of the Hollywood people believed in it. Now this study was done 22 years ago, do you think it’s gotten any better?

It’s no wonder that our society has been saturated with messages that are contrary to God’s 7th commandment. Our divorce rate and the number of married couples in counseling over extra marital affairs has never been higher. It’s time we made the choice to stop listening to Hollywood and listen to what God is telling us.

Scripture tells us that healthy marriages are built on commitment and honesty and that the healthiest intimacy comes between one man and one woman in marriage for life.

Genesis 2:18 says, “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable helper for him.” In Hebrew, the word for helper means counterpart or partner of equal value.

To understand a healthy marriage it is necessary to understand its purpose. First God created marriage as a partnership. Adam was productive before Eve was given to him. He had already started the work that God had required but he was not complete without Eve.

Men need to understand this. While they might get satisfaction and fulfillment from their work or play they often feel an emptiness emotionally. They often feel incomplete without the kind of relationship only a committed marriage can provide.

What sexual temptation leads to is a replacement of any real relationship. The fantasy replaces reality. The yearning for conquest clouds the mind into thinking that this is where true happiness lies. The result is the kind of frustration that ruins marriages and causing one to be alone with an addiction that will never be satisfied. The value of a spouse is replaced by the devil’s deception. The thought leads to the sin. The sin leads to destroyed relationships with both one’s spouse and one’s children.

God values relationship. He is a God of relationship and the relationship He created between man and women was and is a sacred bonding through marriage. God looked at Adam and said that it was not good for him to be alone so he gave him Eve. There was nothing said that she was merely created to have babies. She was created as a partner first and foremost. He gave dominion over the earth to both of them, not just Adam. Eve was different in her function and in the roles she played but she was never intended to be of less value. God’s purpose for marriage was clear from the beginning, one woman for one man for life. God didn’t make any other woman for Adam or any other man for Eve. Eve couldn’t talk about the man she might have married and Adam couldn’t complain that his mother was a better cook, the perfect union.

In a world that changes partners much like it changes cars or favors living together to avoid the commitment of marriage, God’s purpose for marriage cannot happen. Every attempt by society to change God’s intended purposes for marriage has been a step backwards. Though the world tries to inundate us with values contrary to God’s will and purpose, though more and more, the fantasy replaces reality, the evidence in lost relationships prove these values to be wrong and that what God intended for marriage is superior. The most successful marriages are first built on partnerships in trust both between each other and with God.

One of the greatest purposes for marriage was pleasure. In Genesis 2:22-24 it says, “Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman for she was taken out of man.”

When God presented Eve to Adam, his first words were, “this is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Sounds kind of straight forward but in my research I found that this was a statement of excitement and pleasure.

Marriage was to be enjoyed. It was meant to be a relationship that brought great pleasure much like our relationship with God before sin entered the scene. It was to be a mutual commitment and it came with responsibility. It wasn’t some accident. It required commitment from the very beginning.

Today, too many young couples enter into a marriage expecting pleasure without the responsibilities that are required to find it. The happiest couples understand and are responsible and disciplined. True pleasure is a product of responsible behavior.

Finally in Genesis 3:20 we come to procreation. “Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.” Only after partnership and pleasure do we come to making babies. Eve was valued as an equal and not just a baby factory. The loss of this value in the Old Testament created problems for generations. Women became valued only so far as they could produce children for their husbands and that was clearly not God’s plan for marriage.

Children should be a product of two people of equal value who are partners first and whose relationship is loving and pleasurable, but too often our modern society has put pleasure first, resulting in marriages built solely on “feelings.” If our current relationship is no longer fun, then we try another one and our children are left with the greatest suffering. This then becomes generational and before long, joy in a marriage is left out. We must be partners before we are parents and much too often this is missing.

And this brings us to Matthew 5:27-30, “You have heard that it was said, ‘do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body then for your whole body to be thrown in hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go to hell.”

It is very difficult to save a marriage that has experienced adultery. The pain of unfaithfulness can be greater then the pain of death itself. The broken vows and trust in a union can be devastating. Only the strongest of marriages can survive.

And infidelity happens in the heart long before it becomes an outward act. In Matthew here, Jesus is attempting to help explain how important it is to be careful with our thoughts and how it can impact our acts. To look at another woman with fantasy develops lust and is just as sinful as the actual act of adultery, because it too often leads to it. No one wakes up and decides to cheat on their spouse, it’s usually the result of lustful thoughts and desires. The battle rages on but it can be won if we guard our hearts and our minds and avoid the temptations that the devil puts before us.

This is why a society lost in sexual fantasy is so harmful, especially for men who are more visually directed then women. First we look, then we lust after, then we take action to satisfy that desire. It’s also the reason the Bible talks about how we dress so as not to create lust in someone else’s mind. Jesus’ point here is to promote a healthy discipline with our minds because it will ultimately impact how we act.

A healthy partnership in marriage is practical. 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.”

Paul recognized here the importance of purity in a marriage. He encouraged those in marriage to continue a healthy sex life so that neither one would be tempted elsewhere. Paul was even-minded, he is equal in his command that they give each other their due. There is no subservient role of women in a Christian home. Both partners are seen having equal needs and equal responsibility.

In our modern society, we see couples who are away from each other a lot, often for extended periods and that can put a strain on a relationship and create the chance for temptation to occur. For this reason we should make sure each other’s needs are met in a relationship as much as possible. Paul’s point here is to act responsibly. Sexual temptations can cause an otherwise disciplined person to go astray – and the end result is a high price to pay for an evening of self satisfaction.

The Illinois Department of Natural resources reports that more than 17,000 deer die each year after being struck by motorists on state highways. According to Paul Shelton, state wildlife director, the peak season for road kills is in late fall. Why? The bucks are in rut in November. “They’re concentrating almost exclusively on reproductive activities,” he said, “and are a lot less wary then they normally would be.” Deer aren’t the only ones destroyed by this kind of preoccupation.

It’s a careless spouse, a careless society and a careless world that thinks adultery is only a minor problem or something that everyone is going to do anyway so we should quit being so uptight about it. Adultery undermines the trust and bonding between two people that God has joined together as one. It’s not just a sexual act, it’s a spiritual one. That is why the damage is so severe and powerful when someone is unfaithful.

Think of what marriage would be like if everyone were faithful. What types of diseases would disappear? What benefit would their be to the children of the world? What lesson would be taught?

The 7th commandment was given to allow marriages to experience the deepest sharing, with the greatest joys, and children who would grow up in the most stable of environments.

And how does this relationship that God has given us mirror our own relationship with Christ? Christ also has a bride and it’s His church. How have we become adulterous to Him? After all you’ve heard this morning, does it relate to how we have become an adulterous nation?

We are the bride of Christ and He loved that relationship enough to die for it. The love that Christ shows to His bride should be the example of the love we show to our own spouse.

Throughout Christ’s ministry, His one purpose was relationship both with Him and with each other. Everything he did, He did for our benefit because the relationship He sought with us was worth it to Him. When He spoke out against the mere thought of sexual infidelity He did so out of love because He understood how important a trusting and committed relationship was to us. When He used the illustration of separating ourselves from the eyes and hands that sin, He emphasized the importance of a proper relationship with the Father.

Jesus Christ died so that by His death we could be in relationship and in His death He challenges us to put that same kind of importance in the relationships we have with each other. God loves us with a love that transcends our greatest imaginings and that love is to be reflected even in our thoughts.

We need to think about our actions and how they affect those we love. We have to understand that, though the world teaches us one thing, our direction has to come from God. Jesus said that when a man joins himself to a prostitute they become one – not just in flesh but in spirit also. The relationship of one man with one woman can bring great joy when followed God’s way, or great pain when we ignore his instruction.

God knows our weaknesses. He knows that, by our self, we will consistently fall short. What a great blessing then, that God the Father loved us enough to give us his Son. Our walk in life is never alone. In prayer we always have God’s willing ear. When we fall into temptation, we have the promise of the Holy Spirit to pick us up out of the gutter. When we have wondering eyes, we have the power of God behind us to change our focus. When the devil drags us off the narrow path, we have the grace and forgiveness of God through repentance to get us back on track. When out guilt has driven us to our knees, we have the assurance given us through Christ’s death to get us back on our feet.

So I implore you to seek God first and do away with the fantasies that lead to destruction. No bond can be of greater value than that Bond we have with God. God created marriage to mirror that commitment. Stay true to each other and stay true to God. Amen

Be the Salt

Pastor Dan Haugen

“Be the Salt”

February 9, 2014

 

 Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

Our Gospel lesson for this morning takes place near the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. So far in His sermon He has taken the opportunity to emphasis humanities care for humanity. He has blessed the poor in spirit, those who mourn and those who are meek. He has brought hope to those who hunger and search for righteousness and has exalted those who are merciful and peaceful. He has brought comfort and promise to those who are persecuted for doing what is right in His name.

So far He has described those attributes that He demands to see in those who claim their inheritance in heaven. These are the attributes that the faithful Christian should see in their lives because it is by faith that these gifts are present.

This morning we continue on with the story to a part in His sermon that calls for more. Here he challenges His hearer’s to choose to be dedicated, godly influences in the world in which they live. These are hard words for many to hear because they demand much of us. He is not calling for pockets of transformation here and there. He expects that the whole world would be transformed by our presence.

He says, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be salt again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be throw out and trampled by man.” Salt was much different in Jesus’ day. Today if you buy a container of salt at the grocery store you can be pretty sure it’s very pure. This was not the case back then, in fact, some was so impure that it wasn’t very salty at all and they would use it for nothing more than to harden the pathway to their homes.

Jesus is saying that He has called His people to be pure salt, the saltiest of salt, and He knows that if we are to, indeed, transform the world, our saltiness must not be corrupted by the impurities of the world. Here he calls us to be uncompromising, pure and authentic.

I think we have been witnessing the contamination of the salt of Christianity all around us. We see those who twist Scripture to fit their immoral lifestyles. We see those who avoid worship and Bible Study because the things of the world have become more important to them. We see people afraid to share the Word of God because they fear a reprisal. We see people who have decided against Christ because He doesn’t allow for compromise. We see churches water down Christianity so much that it’s only a pale imitation of what it was called to be. And we see people attend those churches because they don’t want to be challenged.

When Jesus calls us to be the salt of the earth, he is calling us to be authentic. He doesn’t want us to focus on Him one day a week and then forget about Him for the other six days. He wants all or nothing at all.

When Jesus calls us to be the salt of the earth, it is a calling to a consistent lifestyle. Those who claim Christianity and fail to show it in their lives only repel others from the church and are labeled as hypocrites. Saying one thing and doing another repels others from truly knowing Christ.

So we need to ask ourselves, how authentic is our walk? Are people drawn to faith by us or are they somehow repelled by us? Do people cross our path and recognize that we are somehow different than the world or do they see us as just another product of it? I can’t begin to count all the times I have heard of someone claiming to be Christian but whos life is evidence of anything but.

Not that we don’t all mess up now and then and I have to confess that I have faltered many times myself. That’s what the gifts of repentance and forgiveness are for. We must understand that to be the salt is a daily challenge and it must be one a faithful Christian is up to. We may be the only examples others see. It’s not a call to be perfect in the eyes of the world, it’s a call to be authentic in our walk with Christ.

As most of you know, I have a deep love for the theater. I’ve seen it do amazing things in the spiritual lives of children. Theater is the greatest tool I have seen to bring kids to Christ and it’s ironic that it’s because they get to be someone else for a while. In the world they are taught to avoid their faith because it’s uncool or out of place. They are taught to repress their love for Christ for the benefit of those who deny Him. They are taught to accept the world as they are led away from the church.

But in theater, kids get to express their faith in a way that the world accepts. They get to play the part of a dedicated disciple, or a heroic character of faith. In theater they get to express what they really feel in the role of someone who all in the faith have come to admire. Theater is where I have seen kids at their saltiest. Here is where I have seen their faith expressed in its purest form.

But there are those who live their lives as nothing more than an act. They claim one part and portray another. Today there are too many hypocrites who play the same role every day. Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 23:25-28, Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Jesus has no use for those who claim their place in the family of God but do nothing for the family. He doesn’t want to be bothered by false promises and empty dedication. He avoids those who cry out in His name but have not made room for Him in their hearts.

God is looking for those who put their trust in Him to change them, and I’m not talking superficially. Pastor Jeffrey Smead says that Christians are to be good news before they share the Good News.

I’m fond of Charlie Brown. I love how he’s always trying to do the right thing for people who often don’t deserve it. In the end though, people see him for the goodness in him. Usually it’s after he’s taken all kinds of abuse.

In one cartoon it was just him and Peppermint Patty. She says, “Guess what Chuck, the first day of school and I got sent to the principal’s office and it was all your fault, Chuck.”

“My fault?” Says Charlie Brown, “How could it be my fault? Why do you say everything is my fault?” She says, “You’re my friend, aren’t you Chuck? You should have been a better influence on me.”

We see this and we see Peppermint Patty as just another person passing the buck unwilling to take responsibility for her actions. But in a way she’s right. We should be positive influences on those we come into contact with. We are called to be the salt of the earth.

Salt enhances things. It brings out the flavor of foods. It also preserves things like beef jerky, one of my favorite foods. But if it never comes into contact with things it’s absolutely worthless.

When it is rubbed into things like meat, it influences the meat. Not enough and it can barely be affective, too much and it becomes repulsive. Just enough, and it becomes just what God intended it to be when He created it.

Salt sitting in a shaker is of no use until it comes into contact with something. So it is with God’s people. People content to keep their faith to themselves are of no use to God. He calls us to use our saltiness by coming into contact with others in faith. He doesn’t want us to be complacent, keeping God’s grace to ourselves.

He calls us rather to defend our faith by taking a moral stand against those who would persecute it. He calls us to proudly share the Good News in a world that is trying to quiet Him. He is counting on His people to change the world and not become regretful results of its influence. We see the church being attacked in every avenue but we see so little of the saltiness of Christ to defend her.

In Mark’s version of the Sermon on the Mount it says in verse 50, “Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Mark paints a clearer picture of what Jesus expects. This is not a solitary call. It’s a call for all of us in the faith to be the salt together. It’s a call to put away our differences and be the salt that the world is crying out for whether they choose to believe it or not. The world is sick and it needs the saltiness we have to give.

2 Kings 2: 19-22 says, “Now the men of the city said to Elisha, “Behold, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees, but the water is bad, and the land is unfruitful.” He said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. Then he went to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the LORD, I have healed this water; from now on neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it.” So the water has been healed to this day, according to the word that Elisha spoke.”

The world needs a healing that only Christ can give and He has called us all to be the salt that will help in its healing. The world is not looking for false representatives of the faith, hypocrites are of no use to it. The world is yearning for people who are authentic, those who are purified through repentance. And God can make you that person if you trust in Him to do so.

Christ didn’t die on the cross so that the world would go forth unchanged. He made the supreme sacrifice so that it would change the world for the better. He died so that we might have the ability to share the message of reconciliation with all those who have not heard it. He died so that all people would have the chance for eternal life. He died, so that all people could live.

You have a great message to share with the world. It’s a message that will promise eternity in heaven, a message of hope and grace, a message too good to keep to yourselves. But you have to be willing to be the salt that God is calling for. You have to be willing to influence others by your faith. You have to be willing to be the change in your own little way that will ultimately save the world. You have to be willing to live a life that makes your faith obvious to all who come into contact with you.

Today is the day! Today is the day to dedicate or rededicate your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. You are the salt of the earth! Be the salt! Let both your life and your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Bible Study Question – Matthew 5:13-20

What are some uses for salt? Leviticus 2:13; Exodus 30:34-35; 2 Kings 2:19-21; Job 6:6-7

What does it mean to be the “salt of the earth?”

What uses do you think Jesus was thinking of in our lesson? Vs. 13 (hint: Salt’s main use in Jesus’ day was as a preservative)

In Mark’s version of the Sermon on the Mount in verse 9:49 he says that everyone will be “Salted with fire,” what do you think he means by this?

How might you be like ‘salt’ in your neighborhood, in your family, in your workplace?

What is the principle that light teaches? Luke 2:29-32; John 1:1-9, 8:12, 9:1-5, 12:44-46; 1 John 5-10; Ephesians 5:6-8; Philippians 2:12-18

What does this concept mean to us as Christians? How does the light affect us?

In verses 14-16 the light is good works we do (verse 16), what are some of these good deeds? Matthew 5:1-12

Even the smallest detail in the Law will not disappear. What difference might that make if you know that?

Why are all commands in the Law important?

Who were the Pharisees? What type of influence did they have on the population? Matthew 15:1-9

How were the Scribes and Pharisees failing to be the salt and light of the world?

“Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  What does that mean? Is this command from Jesus saying you have to be perfect in God’s eyes?

How can one generally distinguish a person trying to exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees?

Were the Pharisees condemned because they worked hard to keep the law as perfectly as they could? Are we?

How does your desire to avoid being insulted or persecuted in some way hinder your living in a righteous way or following Jesus?