Summary: Jesus calls Christians "salt." This title reminds us of the new nature, and special assignment God has given to all believers. (Sermon adapted from Feb. 4, 1999 sermon by John C. Jeske.)
It’s that season of the year again. Time to dig in the attic or make a run to Value Village and put a costume together for Halloween. So what do you plan on dressing up as this year (ask several children in congregation)? May I offer a costume suggestion? How about dressing up as a box of salt? No, I’m not joking. In fact in our text Jesus said that this is what Christians are – salt! Let’s find out what Jesus meant with this interesting word picture.
On your dinner table or perhaps right above your stove is a little shaker with some white kernels in it. How did those kernels become salty? Did Mr. Morton make them salty? No, he didn’t. Mr. Morton can’t make salt. God made those white grains in the shaker salty. It’s the same with salty Christians. We didn’t get this way by ourselves. It is God who gave us a new nature that makes us what Jesus calls “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13).
What was it that God changed about us when he made us salty Christians? The Apostle Paul explains what we were like before God took hold of us: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts” (Ephesians 2:1-3a).
Our old sinful nature is what God set about changing in us. God needed to do this because this sinful nature of ours doesn’t just lie quietly in our hearts, like cornflakes in a bowl. It’s constantly active, influencing the way we think about God and others. When God’s 6th Commandment, for example, announces that sex before marriage and sex outside of marriage is a slap in the face of God, we hear a voice inside of us screaming: “That’s unrealistic! This is the 21st Century, not the 18th!” When we’re cruising the Whitemud, we look at the motorists in the lanes to our left and right as competitors who will steal our lane if we give them half a chance instead of seeing them as people God wants us to love. Unfortunately the sinful nature doesn’t suddenly fall silent when we step into the church. For it was that same sinful nature that caused the Apostle John in our Gospel Lesson to be resentful of the man who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name but wasn’t one of the Twelve (Mark 9:38). In the same way it’s the sinful nature that causes us to see each other as rivals, not teammates so that we think that our way of running the church is the best way and we’re suspicious of anyone who would disagree with us. What an absolutely crummy way for a child of God to think! And yet, according to the Bible, that’s the kind of nature with which each of us was born (Psalm 51:5).
Is it any wonder that if we’re ever to live with God, he’ll have to give us a new nature? The wonderful news is that God has given us a new nature, and the title “salty Christians” reminds us of that. God made some deep-down changes in us when he created faith in our hearts to believe what Jesus Christ did as our substitute. The perfect life Jesus lived became our perfect life of obedience to God. The innocent death Jesus suffered paid for every one of our sins. And then God sent the Holy Spirit who took us who once had totally self-centered, loveless, and earthly-minded hearts, and gave us hearts that beat with loyalty to him and with love for people. To put it another way, when God looks at us now he doesn’t see a saltshaker that a child has filled with dirty sand from the playground where cats prowl and microbes live. Such a saltshaker will never be welcomed onto the dinner table. No, the filth of our sins has been scrubbed clean with Jesus’ blood, and his perfect life has been poured into us so that God sees people filled with pure white righteousness. Like a beautiful crystal shaker that stands ready for service on the table of a king, we now stand in the presence of the King of kings ready to serve him as salty Christians.