Saturday, December 31, 2016

2 Corinthians 4:8-10 - Chicken Soup for the Soul

2 Corinthians 4:8-10 - Chicken Soup for the Soul

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

We are a realistic people for the most part. Most of us know that being a Christian does not insulate us from life’s problems. In fact, sometimes we suffer BECAUSE we ARE Christians. SO, I have a question: How are we to find comfort, peace, and understanding when our world is falling apart? How can we face difficult losses with unflappable joy???

As a pastor, I often find myself in the unenviable position of being asked hard questions by hurting people. And to be frank with you, I often don’t know what to say. I see things, heartaches, for which there seems no logical answer. People look to me for clarity, and sometimes, I feel utterly helpless to offer it.

I mean, what do you tell a mother whose child has just died?

What do you tell a man whose wife has run off with another?

What do you tell a teenager whose dad is an alcoholic and they are being abused by the very one who is supposed to protect them??

As much as we tell people “We understand what they are going through,” we usually don’t have a clue.

No one is in a better position to offer comfort than the one who has been there himself. 

Take Paul as an example. Over in chapter 11, he tells the church all the things he had suffered as a preacher of the gospel. He wrote,

“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.”

Paul wasn’t complaining… but he didn’t want his readers to have any romantic fantasies about serving the Lord. Living for God had not spared him trouble – in fact, his love for the Lord had led him right into the teeth of the evil one. His suffering was a direct result of doing the very things God wanted him to do. Yet, through it all, he was able to say to the Corinthians,

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, Who comforts us in ALL our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God!”

What was Paul’s secret for overcoming hardship? Was he SO DIFFERENT from US that it is IMPOSSIBLE to be joyful in times of loss?

Thankfully Paul tells us HOW we can have joy even when suffering. Paul did 3 things that enabled him to find peace and purpose in the midst of life’s storms. And the wonderful thing about it – is – we can do these same three things:

1. First, if you would navigate the troubles of life with joy, you need to Remember God’s Promises.

Throughout this chapter (and the whole book, really) Paul reflects on the faithfulness of God in every situation, through every hardship he experienced. The Lord was faithful to provide comfort and wisdom... to give Paul an opportunity to witness… to give him peace.

When you remember the promises of God to his people, you will understand that NOTHING, no trial, no persecution, not even DEATH can rob us of the joy that God has given us!

What ARE some of those promises??

  • How about His promise to “never leave us or forsake us” in Hebrews 13:5? No matter how bleak the situation, even when abandoned by man, God will NEVER cut and run in our time of need. 
  • What about His promise to give wisdom when we ask Him in James 1:5?? The ability to see things through God’s eyes… to make right decisions… to know how to respond to adversity with grace. 
  • Or that He will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle in 1 Corinthians chapter 10?? The Lord will never put us in a position where we have no other option but to sin. 
  • How about His promise to hear and answer our prayers in 1 John chapter 5 
  • or to give us peace that passes all understanding in Philippians 4:7?? 
  • We have the promise of the Holy Spirit to come to our side and shoulder the load with us according to Jesus in the gospel of John. 
  • Or consider the promise of God’s family to bear our burdens WITH us in Galatians chapter 6?? 
  • Or how about the fact that God has a plan for my life, Jeremiah 29, and has determined to bring good to me EVEN THROUGH what seems - at the time - like calamity, Romans 8:28. 
  • When I am weary, HE gives me rest – Matthew 11:28. 
  • When I need protection, God says “I am your shield” Genesis 15:1. 
  • “No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” Psalm 84:11. 

Paul teaches me that when I go through trials, I have got to go back to the Word of God and remind myself that He is faithful. Though chained to the floor of a damp prison cell, Paul could sing. Though driven out of town, beaten to a pulp, stoned and left for dead, Paul had learned to Remember God’s Promises.

I tell you what you need to do – every time you come across one of God’s promises, write it on a post it note and put it where you will see it every day. Whether it is your bathroom mirror…as you are brushing your teeth, you can meditate on God’s promise. Your computer monitor at work – you can fill your mind with encouragement while you are working. Or your dashboard as you drive to work... THINK on God’s Word to you. You will be encouraged EVEN while going through very discouraging things as you remember God’s Promises.

2. NEXT Paul had learned to Reflect on God’s Purposes.

As you go through things YOU don’t understand, start looking for the purpose of God in this thing. Listen to vv. 12-15, “So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same Spirit of faith, according to what has been written ... Knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people, it may increase thanksgiving to the glory of God.”
Could it be that God has a purpose for our suffering?

Could it be that He allows us to experience things so that we can minister to others in need?

As I said in the beginning – no one understands what others are going through quite like the man or woman who has experienced the same suffering.

One day in 1932, musician and song-writer, Thomas Dorsey, left his pregnant wife in Chicago, and drove through snow to St. Louis – where he was asked to sing some of his anointed lyrics in a great Revival Crusade. The trip was a success. The services were moving. Many came to the Lord.

After the meeting, Dorsey went to his hotel room and found a message waiting for him with tragic news. His wife had gone into labor shortly after he had left, and through a series of complications, both wife and child --- had died.

Filled with grief, Dorsey fell to his knees seeking answers. Riddled with guilt for not being there for his wife, his mind jumped from blaming himself to blaming God.

Had God failed him?

Days after the funeral, through countless tears and heartfelt prayers, the peace of God invaded his darkness, and he sat down at his piano from which scores of worship ballads had been written, and the words of a new song flowed from his heart.

Maybe you know it? “Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand… I am tired, I am weak, I am worn… Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light… Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.”

How many times have those words soothed the broken heart - ministering healing and hope to God’s people down through the years?

You see? No one is better prepared to offer clarity and comfort than one who has walked that dark road themselves.

Paul tells the Corinthians, “I have suffered all these things – FOR YOU!” He is saying, in so many words, “I stand before you as a living testament of the faithfulness of God - that JUST AS He has helped ME – He will also help YOU in your time of crisis.”

In chapter 1 and verse 4, Paul spoke of the Lord “Who comforts us in ALL our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort ... we ourselves … have received.”

I can be victorious in my suffering WHEN I surrender myself to God and ask Him to be glorified through me – when I allow Him to use my hurts to help others.

I know the tendency is for us to be selfish and only think of ourselves as we go through hard times. And you know what??? There’s time for that. There's a place for that. But once you’ve gone through your suffering and have had time to process your emotions, you need to comfort others with the comfort YOU have received.

How do you do that?? I mean, after all, we are usually at a loss for words – we don’t know what to say when people are hurting. Sometimes the BEST thing is to be quiet. To show up, put your arm around the person, and grieve with them.

Christian physician and counselor, Dr. Paul Brand, wrote a book called “Fearfully and Wonderfully made,” in which he said, “When I ask patients and their families, “Who helped you most in your time of suffering?” I often hear a strange and imprecise answer. The comforter rarely has smooth answers or a winsome, effervescent personality. It is usually someone quiet and understanding, who listens MORE than he talks, who doesn’t judge or offer much advice. They offer a hand to hold… a compassionate shoulder to cry on… and a shared lump in the throat.”

THOSE are the people we want around us in times of suffering and loss. People who get it… who have gone through it… and realize that just BEING THERE is all that is needed.

Paul had surrendered his suffering to the purposes of God, in the hopes that God might use him to comfort others in their times of distress. People who saw him received encouragement… because he was willing to do ANYTHING, EVEN SUFFER, that others might be helped.

I have shared with some of you how just two days before the fire, I had prayed that God would do WHATEVER IT TOOK to help me connect with this community. And I meant it.

Have you surrendered to the purposes of God in YOUR trials? Have you asked God to make you more like Christ through this and to use you to be a help to others who are struggling? That’s what Paul did. That’s how HE could have joy in his pain.

3. But not only did Paul Remember God’s Promises and Reflect on God’s Purposes, he also learned to Rest in God’s Perspective. Listen to vv. 16-18,

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

It was testimony time in the small church, and the pastor asked his congregation to share their favorite passage of scripture. Many of the old favorites were mentioned – like John 3:16 and the 23rd Psalm. Verses promising salvation, assurance, and strength were all shared. THEN an elderly gentleman stood and said that his favorite words in the Bible were, “And it came to pass.”

He continued, “when I am sick, those words remind me it won’t last forever. When I am in trouble I know it will come to an end. When lonely I know I will soon be able to say, “it came to pass.”

How wise! No matter how severe the suffering or how long the trial, the day will come when it will END. In fact, Paul says, in light of eternity, even the WORST of his problems were but “light afflictions.” Trials only SEEM heavy because we aren’t looking at them from God’s perspective… because we are wrapped up in the temporary.

We need to focus our lives, our plans, our priorities on eternal things. From the way we spend our monies to how we spend our lives… we need to remember that the GREATEST things are GOD’s things. THIS ISN’T heaven. THIS isn’t home. When we learn to hold loosely the things of this world, losing them won’t be so devastating.

Are you going through things that are threatening your peace?

  • Remember God’s Promises 
  • Reflect on God’s Purposes 
  • and Rest in God’s Perspective. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Luke 2:1-11 – the REAL Meaning of Christmas

Luke 2:1-11 – the REAL Meaning of Christmas
1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

How do YOU feel about Christmas??
For MANY, this is their favorite time of the year.  A time of love, of giving, of friends and family get-togethers, for special services at the church…all the singing…the kids…the smells…the decorations – everything about Christmas is GREAT to them!
For OTHERS, Christmas is a lonely time – a season of depression… where memories haunt and family and friends too often forget. Maybe DEATH robbed them or DISTANCE prevents them from enjoying this day.
For SOME, Christmas is a time for overindulgence – to get off work, drink, overspend, and overeat.
And for a few, Christmas has become so commercialized that it has lost any real meaning it once had.  They feel that Christmas has been stolen from the church in order to make rich people richer – as was illustrated by one Christmas card I saw recently that cited Revelation 11:10 in its opening greeting… “And they exchanged gifts and made merry!” hoping that no one would actually check the reference and discover that this was actually satanic.
Rather than “God-honoring,” SOME believe that God has been left totally out of the picture – and therefore, it would almost be better if we scrapped Christmas altogether.
That’s how the Puritans felt.  Yeah – the Puritans – Those folks who were so spiritual that they thought it was a sin to have a good time.  They got so fed up with everything ABOUT Christmas that they got rid of it!  They believed it had been corrupted by pagan rituals.  They especially objected to the fact that the holiday had become an excuse for people to miss church.  

But they did MORE than just complain about things.  In Puritan settlements across 17th century America, it became illegal to celebrate Christmas.  Stores were required to be open as if it was just another day.  It was even against the law to make plum pudding on December 25th - I kid you not!
Is THIS the approach WE should take since the world has hi-jacked Christmas?  Abolish it???  

I’m not for that at all, but I do think it is high time we get back to teaching the real meaning of Christmas so our children understand what it’s all about!
Frankly, I am sick and tired of the politically correct crowd and their “holiday trees” and “winter celebrations.”  I am tired of those who are so offended by Jesus that they call the ACLU over a plastic nativity scene on the town square.  Christmas IS about Jesus – if you don’t like it, stay home!  Don’t go shopping.  Don’t send cards.  No one is forcing you to believe in Christ.  Be an old scrooge if you want to, but don’t take Christmas from me! It’s time the church reclaimed the meaning of Christmas.
Well then, what does Christmas mean???
If we sat down with our children and grandchildren and asked THEM to articulate the purpose of our celebration, what would they say?  I want to help you with that, by taking you back to that glorious night over 2,000 years ago, in order to remind you of the meaning of this day…

1.  First, I want to remind you of the Circumstances of that first Christmas.  On that eventful night, the angels of heaven rang out the news, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!”  We cannot examine the circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus without coming to the conclusion that something wonderful, something supernatural had taken place.  3 miracles in fact:
First, the BIRTH of Jesus was miraculous.  IF we accept the Bible as God’s Word, then we MUST conclude that the birth of Jesus was unlike any other.  Almighty God, born of a virgin Jewish girl, is a mystery too great for man to comprehend.  Luke tells us how it all transpired in chapter 1, where we find the Angel of the Lord saying to Mary, “The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called ‘the Son of God.”  Though many great men grace the pages of history – none have ever been born of a virgin – none have been the only begotten Son of God - but Jesus.
Also, the timing of His birth was miraculous.  If you look at it objectively, you can easily see the hand of God working behind the scenes of human history to bring this event to pass.  As Paul tells us in Galatians 4:4 – “But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son.”   

Think of it…according to historians, this was the very first census of its kind. Families were forced to return to the land of their forefathers in order to pay taxes.  Little did Caesar Augustus know that he was being used as an instrument of the Almighty to bring about the birth of Jesus in the right place. Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth, yet despite her condition, law forced them to travel some 90 miles by foot to Joseph’s ancestral home of Bethlehem.  This had been prophesied 700 hundred years before by the prophet Micah, who said, “But you, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
Third, the multitude of prophecies that were fulfilled at his birth is also miraculous.  Out of the 333 prophecies in the OT concerning the FIRST coming of Jesus, a great many of them were fulfilled the night of his birth.  The birth of Jesus, validates the truth claims of the Bible – it PROVES that the Bible IS in fact God’s Word.  

When the Magi came to the palace of Herod the Great and asked to see “the newborn king,” the scribes emphatically told Herod that Christ MUST be born in Bethlehem in order to fulfill prophecy.  And… He was.

The Circumstances of Christmas.

2.  Second I would remind you of the Crime of Christmas, the Crime in verse 7 which says, “She brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”  

What a crime… that… God’s Son… the object if heaven’s praise… would be born in such a pitiful place.

When Joseph and Mary arrived at the Inn and requested accommodations for the night, they were told ‘NO ROOM!”  The innkeeper’s refusal to take in these weary travelers has been the crime of Christmas throughout the centuries, not only for the fact that he turned them away… but the attitude of the innkeeper has come to define the action of depraved mankind.
Notice first his Woeful Ignorance.  This man had no idea of the significance of this night – nor of the couple who stood before him.  But the same God who rewarded the anticipation of the shepherds, the Magi, Simeon, and Anna, would have done the same for THIS man had his heart not been blinded by gold.  His heart was neither sensitive NOR searching.  He was Woefully Ignorant.
We live in an age where the gospel can be heard in almost every language on earth.  Bibles abound… Churches by the thousands line our streets.  Hundreds of sermons can be heard every day on the radio and satellite…and yet there is an appalling ignorance of God and the things of God in this world.  Man is much like the innkeeper – too wrapped up in the THINGS of this life to recognize the significance of the birth Christ.
We also see his Willful Indifference – standing before him was a woman GREAT with child.  A woman in this condition deserves tenderness and consideration – but the innkeeper was indifferent…

just like OUR generation.  The Bible tells us that IN CHRIST and Christ alone we will find the answer to our every longing.  In HIM we have peace with God and the peace OF God.  Our sins are forgiven, our lives are changed through HIM!  But how many people remain unmoved by this offer – willfully indifferent?
And third, the Crime of Christmas is seen in the Innkeeper’s Worldly Involvement.  Too busy to be concerned with Jesus.  The census had made for good business – too good in fact.  He was raking in the cash hand over fist.  At a more convenient time he might have gone the extra mile – but at this important time when God would visit man, he had OTHER things on his mind.
As you think about all that Christmas means, as you look at the things going on in our time – How many folks do we see that are blinded to the truth of God because they are so wrapped up in this world?  Too busy…their lives too full of other things…and they push Jesus outside and shut the door, “No ROOM.”  “Come back at a more convenient time and I'll  see what I can do…but right now, I can’t be bothered with Jesus.  I’ve got my own stuff to worry about.”  

The Crime of Christmas.
3.  And third, after noting the Circumstances of Christmas and the Crime of Christmas,
I want to close with the CLAIMS of Christmas.  There are three – see if you can find them in the angelic announcement: “For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ, the Lord.”  

This statement spells out, in no uncertain terms, God’s claim upon each one of us.  He will not allow us to remain neutral about His Son.  God visited man for a reason.  And the names - the titles used here were chosen carefully in order that we might understand from the very beginning that Jesus Christ came into this world to claim a people for Himself.
First, Jesus has a SAVING Claim upon your life – He is called “Savior” for a reason.  When the angel of God first appeared to Joseph, he said, “Thou shalt call his name ‘Jesus’ for He shall save His people from their sins.”  Man needed a Savior.

  • Had we needed educating, God would have sent the very best teacher.
  • Had we needed a scientist, God would have sent the brightest.
  • Had we needed a political leader, God would have sent the most savvy.

But we didn’t need those things.  We needed a Savior.  We have prophets, preachers and politicians galore… but there was no one to take away our sin – but HIM!  As Paul explained in 1 Timothy chapter 1, “Christ Jesus came into the world -- to save sinners.”
Not only does he have a Saving Claim, He also has a SANCTIFYING Claim on your life, for He is also called “Christ.”  “Christ” means ‘the anointed one.’ Anointed ... set apart by God to give us life and enable us to stand before the presence of God forgiven and free, clothed in His righteousness.  This One Who was ‘set apart’ has come to set YOU apart too - to separate you from sin - to make you God’s child.
But not only does He have a Saving and a Sanctifying Claim upon your life, He also has a SOVEREIGN Claim – for - He - IS - LORD!  This is why men despise Him.  They refuse to humble themselves before their sovereign – everybody wants forgiveness and blessing…everybody wants heaven, they just don’t want a King.  They want to sit upon the throne of their OWN heart and call their OWN shots - they will not have Jesus rule over them.
But I would remind them that Jesus isn’t just A Lord, but THE Lord…He isn’t just A king, but THE King of Kings.  Man will never know peace, purpose, or power, until Christ reigns, unchallenged and unrivaled as Sovereign of their lives.  He is MY Lord, and will be YOUR Lord.  He will not share His throne with another.  He came to reign.  And man will bow to Him – one day…either now or in eternity.  For the Bible declares, “Every knee show bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ - is - Lord.”
THIS is what Christmas means to me.  It’s not about tinsel and lights, gifts, or trees, or fat guys in red suits.  It’s not even about the love and generosity we show one another.

Christmas IS Jesus –  

What a crime it would be if we made no room for Him.  What a shame it would be if we did not recognize Him for WHO He is and yield to Him His proper place as LORD of our lives… and teach our children to do the same.

I often find myself wondering – ‘what if I lived back then?  What if I was that innkeeper?  Would I have recognized the importance of that moment?  Would I have felt the Spirit of God that day – alerting me to the significance of that night?
You know, we can shake our heads all we want to at that innkeeper’s hard heart… but here’s what I know ⇒  If I don’t give Christ first place – in my life – in my priorities – RIGHT NOW – it isn’t likely I would have then. If I am too busy to have Him rule my life NOW, if I am so self-willed that I refuse to obey Him NOW… I would be no different than that man who was more concerned with his wallet than his eternal destiny.
Is He in the rightful place in your home this year??  What are you going to do about it?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Matthew 5:13 - The Blessed Life, p. 5

Matthew 5:13 - The Blessed Life, p. 5

Last week we looked at the beatitude which said,

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account,”

and we BEGAN our time with the Question - “Who am I?”  Do I know what sort of person I am - not just when everything's going my way, but what sort of man am I when NOTHING is going my way?  How will I react when I am mistreated for doing RIGHT… or when I am marginalized or mocked for loving Jesus?  It’s important that we be honest with ourselves or we will never recognize our tremendous need for Christ.

TODAY, however, we begin with the question - Who are WE?  What is the purpose of the Church?  And for the answer to that question, we turn to one of the most succinct statements on the purpose of the church in all of the Bible.  Jesus said:

You are the salt of the earth, but if 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.

A ministry that has forgotten its purpose, is a ministry on the fast track to the morgue.  

In 1963, a sign was posted outside the newly CLOSED University Christian Church in New York City.  It read, “Gone out of business… didn’t know what our business was.”

What’s true of THAT church, is true of hundreds, if not THOUSANDS of churches in this country right now… closing their doors because they have no people.  They forgot their business.  In the state of Missouri alone - multiple Free Will Baptist Churches have closed THIS YEAR.  It’s not for a lack of preaching and teaching… it’s not due to poor branding or location.  It’s because we have forgotten our business.

And let me tell you this - the same will be true of Stonebridge if we forget what our purpose is.

If we were to conduct a survey asking people to answer this simple question: “Why do we exist as a church?” we’d likely get a lot of different answers.  Some would be right.  Some, probably not.  But chances are, there wouldn’t be a clear, succinct response to the question.  

And that’s my fault.  As a Pastor, I need to do a better job articulating the vision of our church.  I need to so impress you with our purpose, that if a friend or family member randomly asks you “WHY we exist?” that you could provide a confident, concise answer.

Our purpose is biblical.  Our purpose is NOT man-centered, but God-centered.  We do not gather to feel good about ourselves.  We are not here to be entertained.  We are NOT EVEN here to have our needs met, or to sing, or to find ample challenge to get involved solving the social problems of our community.  


We are here to make Jesus and His Gospel - known.  We are here to introduce our world to the life-saving, life-changing message of Christ. To reproduce ourselves. .. to make disciples.

Without THAT - we might as well close our doors.  Without the singular focus of being salt and light, we are, in the words of Jesus in our text, “no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.

Jesus’ vision for the church is clear.  In one verse, He tells us WHY we are here.  For the sake of our study, I have broken this verse into three simple points:

  1. First we see, A Significant Reminder, when Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth.

Sometimes we need to be reminded who we are.  And THIS is His reminder ⇒ we are SALT.  Of all the things Jesus could have used to drive home his point, WHY salt?  Well, let’s look at some of the things salt DOES:

Salt fights corruption.  While it cannot change what is corrupt into incorrupt, it CAN fight against the spread of corruption.  In the days before refrigeration, people would use salt to preserve their meat against bacteria and decay.  Salt is a preservative.  It makes the meat last - it fights against - for lack of a better word - ROT...spoilage.

When we are what we are supposed to be, The CHURCH will fight corruption in our world.  The true church battles against the filth and decay of a society run amuck.  It keeps the rot at bay.  While there will always be righteous causes the church should get behind, like fighting poverty or homelessness, or helping people in times of calamity, we must never lose sight of our war against sin… in all forms - not just the ones we happen to dislike the most.  The church should be in front, holding our leaders to standards of righteousness and justice.  Because - IF the church fails to be the conscience of society, there will be no conscience.

Salt is ALSO a seasoning - it makes bland things taste better.  The only thing worse than bad food, is good food without seasoning - because it will be wasted.  If you don't believe me … try grits! A lot of yankees don’t like that southern dish of delectability because they don’t know how to eat them.  If you put a little salt in those grits - butter - cheese, OH MY! EVERYONE would enjoy them! There wouldn't be a grit left in the store.

Church should make bland things taste better too.  Listen, no one wants to attend a funeral unless they have to.  Worship should be inspiring… preaching should be informative - helping people understand how God’s Word applies to THEIR LIFE and how it will MAKE THEIR LIFE so much better.  Friendships can grow deep in church.  People care for us, share with us, pray for us, stand with us AT CHURCH.  We need to understand that our mission, as salt, makes bland things taste better.

God doesn’t get glory from our miserable faces - singing about Amazing Grace.  And besides, people get enough of that out in the world - why would they accept that in their church?

And listen, Salt creates thirst too.  You don’t believe me?  Buy a bucket of popcorn the next time you go to the movies.  A third of the way in you will be so parched you can’t think about the show.  

Salt creates thirst.

The church should create thirst too.  When we are around our friends and family, they should be drawn to the ‘Water of life.’ Amen?  They should be attracted to Jesus from the things they have seen in us.  When we walk with Christ, it will make us caring, attractive, and humble.  People around us should be drawn to Christ because of what they have experienced with us.

Are you like that?  Are we as a church like salt?  It's time we ACTED like it!  It’s who we are.  That is our Lord’s Significant Reminder.

2.  THEN we find A Sad Reality, when Jesus says, “but if salt has lost its taste,  how shall its saltiness be restored?

There are two sad realities here:

First, that Salt CAN lose it’s taste.  How is that possible?  Through prolonged exposure to contaminants.  Salt loses its flavor, its saltiness if things that are NOT salt are allowed to mingle with it - filth, other chemicals, causing the salt to become tasteless…. fundamentally changing it into something else.

The same can be said of Christians, even whole churches.  When we allow other things to become our focus, when our attention is on self or sin or entertainment or WHATEVER, we lose our distinctiveness… we lose that quality that sets us apart - that makes us unique.  

Don’t believe me?  One of the reasons the church sees so few conversions these days is NOT because the gospel is out of date or because people’s hearts are so hard. Listen, sin has always been a problem.  I mean, just go back in history to the first century when the gospel was NEW - those Christians faced all kinds of opposition and hardness towards the gospel, but that handful of believers turned the world upside down for Christ!

No, our problem isn’t that ours is an outdated message.  Our problem is that the church of today is so worldly that the world can’t see any difference between us and them.  We are so contaminated as individual Christians, our lives are so compromised, that we have lost our distinctiveness.

THAT is a sobering reality.  

But there’s a second sobering reality here...

There is no use for tasteless salt.  There comes a point when there is no hope for contaminated salt.  You can’t take contaminated salt and mix it with uncontaminated salt in the hopes that some of the saltiness will rub off on the unsalty.  No.  All THAT will do is contaminate even MORE of the good salt.

I think churches make the mistake of thinking - that - to WIN the world we must become LIKE the world.  Less offensive - less salty.  We want to make Christianity more ‘user friendly.’  And I get it.  Church can be kinda scary.  We DO use confusing terms and sing songs that make little sense to the nonChristian.  I got it.  Sometimes we come across bristly… harsh… judgmental.  But in our pursuit of the world, we often cross a line where our message is, at best, confused, and at worst, compromised.

We as a Church must remember - what you WIN them with, you will have to KEEP them with.  And we as individual Christians need to remember, acting like a lost man will destroy your influence with lost people.  And that’s what soul-winning is all about… INFLUENCE.

Have you lost YOUR influence??  Your saltiness??  When you are away from here, do your friends and family see you living a compromised life and no longer take you OR THE GOSPEL seriously?  There is a real danger in that folks… and that danger isn’t just for them - it’s for you.  Which leads us to our third point…

3.  A Sobering Result.  After ‘a significant reminder’ that we are salt and ‘a sad reality’ that we can lose our saltiness through contamination… THEN Jesus shares a Sobering Result when He says, “It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.

When salt loses its distinctive qualities, it is

Rejected - “thrown out.”  

A powerful statement when you think about it.  How many times does Jesus make such strong statements about the judgment of those who claim to be religious, but their faith is flawed?  He uses expressions like “thrown out” here, or “cut down,” “cast away,” “depart from me,” “broken off and thrown into the fire,” again and again to illustrate the seriousness of judgment - of never taking our salvation as a foregone conclusion.  

It is Sobering, when you think about it, the numbers of people who we view as decent, moral, religious people, that will one day be rejected when they stand before Christ.  Christianity isn’t about keeping up appearances or putting on a show - but it is clear, if your faith in Jesus doesn’t make any difference in you in THIS life… it won’t save you in the NEXT.

When salt loses its distinctive qualities, it is also

Ridiculed - “trampled under people’s feet” says Jesus.  Walked on.  Regarded as nothing.  

And THAT is how so many people view Christ and His Church because of the hypocritical Christians they have come across in this life.  Nothing.  A joke.  A fraud.  Come judgment day, I would hate to be confronted with the reality that my life cast such a negative light on Jesus and His gospel that I was - single-handedly responsible for the destruction of a soul.  To think, that my own FAMILY - my children - my neighbors and friends - were so HURT by my example that they saw Christianity as a joke.  

That’s serious stuff, folks.  Dead serious.  Remember the Old Testament character Lot?  He was a man who knew the truth of God’s coming wrath, but when he warned his family, they thought it was a JOKE.  What happened to them?  Most of them are in eternal torment today.

Our bad behavior reflects negatively on Jesus.

I read a story about a stressed-out woman who was tailgating a man as they drove on a busy street. When he slowed to a stop at a yellow light, the woman hit the horn, cussing and screaming in frustration and gesturing angrily. As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a police officer who ordered her out of the car and to put her hands up. After cuffing her, he took her to the police station and placed her in a holding cell.

An hour later, the officer returned and said, “I’m sorry, Ma’am. There has been a terrible  mistake here. When I pulled up behind you and noticed your ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ license plate holder and your ‘Follow Me to Sunday School’ bumper sticker, I assumed the car must have been stolen!”

Everyday - people are making decisions about the Lord based upon their experiences with His followers.  How we respond to disappointment… how we react when provoked… the choices we make… the words we say.  It matters.

YOU ARE the salt of the earth, Jesus said.  A significant reminder.  We should fight against the spread of corruption… we should make life more interesting and enjoyable… and we should create a thirst for God in those we interact with everyday.

But the sad reality is, through our own contamination, our own worldliness and selfishness, we lose the ability to influence people for Christ.  Many times, our example turns them OFF to Jesus.

Therefore, we will face a sobering result - rejection.  Our testimonies will be rejected - the gospel ridiculed.  And as IF that weren’t bad enough, the idea of the text goes beyond what we will experience here.  We run the risk of facing rejection on judgment day too if we don’t get our stuff together.

I don’t want that.  And I know you don’t either.  But there must be a reckoning - a ‘come to Jesus’ moment when we definitively say - ‘No more going about this half-way.  No more living a compromised life.  I want to live for Jesus.’

Do you need to do that today?  This is your chance…