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:
- 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…