Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Salt of the Earth

The Scripture today was Matthew 5:13-20.  I started my sermon with a short story about Dr. Evan Kane.  Have you ever heard of him?  He was an amazing surgeon for his any time.  You see, Dr. Evan Kane was the chief surgeon of Kane Summit Hospital in New York City. He had practiced his specialty for 37 years.  Over the course of time he came to question the wisdom of using general anesthesia for every surgery. He honestly believed without a doubt that people would recover quicker if they only had local anesthesia. Yet, no matter how convinced Dr. Kane was about his theory, he had one problem.  No one wanted to go under his knife while they were awake. Everyone he talked to had the same fear. They did not want to feel the pain of the scalpel while they were awake during the surgery.  After much searching, Kane finally found a willing subject. It helped that it was a relatively common procedure.  According to Dr. Kane’s own records, during his practice he had performed around 4,000 appendectomies, so the procedure was almost second nature to him.  The patient was prepped and brought into the operating room. The local anesthesia was carefully administered.  As he had always done, he cut into the right side of the abdomen and entered the body cavity. He tied off the blood vessels, found the appendix, excised it, and finished by sewing the incision back up.  To his own credit, he proved himself right. Throughout the surgery the patient felt very little discomfort.  In fact, the patient was up and about the next afternoon, which was remarkable since this was back in 1921. Back then when people had appendectomies they usually stayed in the hospital from 6 to 8 days.  It was a milestone in the world of medicine. However what made it particularly noteworthy was that the patient and the doctor were the same person. Dr. Kane operated on himself. Believe it or not, that is what I’m going to ask of you today.  Oh I am not going to ask you to physically operate on yourself….What I want you to do is something like "spiritual exploratory surgery." I want you to root around a bit in your soul, take a hard and honest look at your spiritual health, and see if your faith walk is as healthy as it should be.

Our Gospel reading this morning from Matthew is near the beginning of Jesus’ most famous sermon, “The Sermon on the Mount.”  In this message, Jesus called his followers to the highest standards of conduct. (P) He challenged us to "turn the other cheek."  He commanded us to love our enemy, to forgive those who do us wrong, and to be sure we act with the purest motives. He said there were two roads, a wide road that leads to destruction and a narrow one that leads to life.  And here in today’s Gospel verses he calls those who follow Him to choose to be a godly influence on the world in which they live. I don’t know about you, but I think those are pretty tough commands.  Jesus clearly expects the world to be transformed by our presence.

Hear Jesus’ words to us: "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men."   Now at first glance this is a little difficult to understand. There is no such thing as "unsalty salt." If you pour the granules out of your saltshaker and it’s not salty, somebody played a trick on you because pure salt does not go bad. Sodium Chloride, table salt like Morton’s that you buy at the store is pure. But the Morton Salt Co. did not exist back in the first century. When they mined salt from the quarry or pit it was never completely pure. Occasionally the salt they gathered was so impure that it was not very salty at all.  When that happened they would cast it out the door to harden the pathway that led to their home.

What Jesus is saying in these verses is that if we as His followers are going to change the world we have to be pure salt, (P) we have to be the real deal. Our lives cannot be a mixture of impurities. We have to be uncompromised, pure, and authentic. That is the word I want you to remember. When Jesus says: "You are the salt of the earth." Jesus is saying "Be Authentic." One thing that has limited the influence Christians have on the world; is that many who claim to follow the Christ are not authentic.  Beloved, an inconsistent lifestyle repels people from the church.

I can not tell you how many times I have heard someone share they know someone who says they are a Christian, but their life is impure.   I am going to be honest….It literally destroys the witness of Christ (P) when believers do not live out their faith.  I know it is an old saying….but it as true today as it ever was…..We may be the only Bible that many will ever see.  Our life needs to portray grace. Our life and our actions may be the only Scriptures that others will ever encounter.   So, how authentic is your walk? Are the people around you drawn to faith by your life walk?   Do people who cross your path recognize that there is a difference in the way you live?

In the letter to the Galatians Paul informs us what a life looks like when the Holy Spirit is active. You will be filled with love You will be filled with joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.   So I ask you again….Do the people you work with, your family members, your neighbors your friends see the "fruit of the Spirit," growing in your life?  Are you the real deal, or is there so much impurity mixed in with your faith that you have become unsalty?

The key is being authentic; the key is being real, not trying to appear perfect. Nobody likes a phony, and if you think you are fooling everybody, than the only person you are probably fooling is yourself.  And you can be assured you are not fooling God. If you want people to think you never struggle, that sin is only a distant memory in your life, then you are not authentic. You are just wearing a mask.  Did you know that in early Greece plays were a very important form of entertainment.  The actors on stage, got behind their masks and they became somebody else, someone different than they really were.   Funny thing…..These actors were called the "hypocrites." Right now in 2014 there are many people whose lives are nothing more than a big act. They play the same role today. They too are the “Hypocrites” by today’s society.   Jesus was not messing around with this….Listen to what Jesus says to us in Mathew. 23:25-28: “Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”   You see, God wants to change us, but not superficially. He calls us to be conformed to the image of His Son. He does not want to just change the way we look. He wants to clean us up from the very core of our being.  Jesus calls us to influence the world toward godliness. To do it we must be authentic. We must have faith in Him that changes us from the inside out.  You will be able to influence people for Christ if they can see that Christ has made a difference in you. "Christians are to be the good news before they share the good news."

I love Peanuts cartoons and one of my favorites Peanuts cartoon, showed Peppermint Patty talking to Charlie Brown. She said, "Guess what, Chuck. The first day of school and I got sent to the principal’s office. It was your fault, Chuck." He said, "My fault? How could it be my fault? Why do you say everything is my fault?" She said, "You are my friend, aren’t you, Chuck?   You should have been a better influence on me."  You know while Peppermint Patty was seeking to pass the buck, she was in a very real sense right. We should be a positive influence on our friends.  We certainly do have an influence on them….good or bad. We are always some type of influence to those in our lives.  You know it is kind of like the preacher who was building the wooden trellis to support a climbing vine. As he was pounding away, he noticed that a little boy was watching him.  The youngster did not say a word, so the preacher kept on working, thinking the boy would leave. But he didn’t. Pleased at the thought that his work was being admired, the pastor finally said, “Are you trying to pick up some pointers on gardening?”  “No” the young boy replied. “I am just waiting to hear what a preacher says when he smashes his thumb with a hammer.”  We are always influencing others either positively or negatively.

But….our lesson today was about salt.  Salt is a seasoning, a preservative, but unless it is brought into contact with another object its influence is wasted!  Salt has to become Invisible to have a Visible effect.  Salt by itself is nothing more than little fine particles but in that state it is worthless  like losing its saltiness.  But when it is rubbed onto and into meat, or added to food it becomes invisible and then becomes what it was intended for… influencing the flavor!  Salt that just sits in the shaker is of no use.

It is much like believers, who become complacent, who no longer share grace; who refuse to take a moral stand; who refuse to share their faith. They are sitting in a shaker!   Right Now, the Holy Spirit may be making some of us a wee bit uncomfortable because he knows we are salt shakers and he is working to cut out the compromise in our life.   So let me ask you this morning....are you authentic?   Are you the real deal?  Are you wearing a mask and at times playing the role of the Greek actors called hypocrites.  Is your salt sitting on the shelf or are you in contact with and bringing flavor to those that God has sent you?

I recently heard about a business owner who became interested in Christianity, but he maintained a distance and just observed for a while.  He employed many Christians in his company and he watched them like a hawk.  He said, "You know, I was naturally drawn to God by observing Christian workers who were conscientious and kind. But I will tell you what really impressed me. One day a guy who I knew to be a fresh convert asked if he could see me after work.  I agreed to meet with him, but later in the day I started to worry that this young religious zealot might be coming to try to convert me." "I was surprised when he came in my office with his head hanging low and said to me, “Sir, I will only take a few minutes, but I am here to ask your forgiveness. Over the years I have worked for you I have done what a lot of other employees do, like borrowing a few company products here and there,  taken some extra supplies;  abused telephone privileges; and cheated the time clock now and then."  He went on, "But I became a Christian a few months ago and believe me it is real…not the smoke and mirror stuff.  In gratitude for what Christ has done for me and in obedience to Him, I want to make amends to you and the company for the wrongs I have done.   He asked if they could find a way so he could  just make things right with God and between us." In the end they did work it out. That business owner said that one conversation made a deeper spiritual impact on him than anything else ever had.  That employee did not influence his boss because he had some clever presentation of the gospel. He did it because he was living out a faith that was both authentic and available.

Midway…. we can do that. But in order to do it, we have to be willing to be the good news before we tell the good news. What you say and do influences those God puts into your life. You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. So I am going to encourage you all….and myself….today….Let both our lives and our lights so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.

No comments: