Summary: Do you live an isolated, separate life because you think it is what God wants you to do?
Disciples who Make A Difference
How do we who are Believers relate to the world of which we are a part?
We are fond of saying that ‘we are in the world, but not of the world.’
There are several warnings in the New Testament about becoming so comfortable in our culture that we are no longer a distinct people who belong to God.
If we are honest, many Believers would admit that to a feeling of discomfort in many situations where the atmosphere is threatening to our sense of morality and well-being.
All that is as it should be, for when we come to Christ we are changed by the Spirit. We start think and act differently as the Holy Spirit changes us from the inside out. This transformation has real consequences.
Often there is a sense of distance into our extended family relationships.
Our friends often react as though we have lost our mind.
Our government seems to be increasingly hostile to that which is morally right in the name of individual rights..
The media, especially TV, does not, as a rule, portray Believers in a positive light, choosing to show the excesses of faith rather than the benefits that come from knowing and serving God.
As a consequence there are many ways in which we have reacted by forming a defensive perimeter.
Sometimes that separatist attitude shows up in rather benign ways.
We listen to our Christian radio stations, read our Christian books, go to our Christian colleges, attend our Christian concerts, and follow our Christian heroes.
As evangelical, Pentecostal, and/or charismatic Believers we exist as a complete sub-culture in America. Many assume that is what it means to ‘live as a Christian.’
A smaller minority of Believes chose a completely different path, becoming militant! They march out to take on the world. They are noisy, angry, and demanding that sin stop now! They fire off letters to the editor that scorch the ‘sinners’ and the sins they perceive in the world. They protest and picket to force change on the world. Their extended families have to deal with their declarations about faith and morality at every gathering as they make their convictions known - loud and clear!
And usually they declare that those who are not ready to be that confrontational about issues of faith are not really Christians at all.
And then, there are many - like most of us in this room today - who wonder what we are to do. Are we to separate ourselves from the culture and withdraw into our own community? Or are we to take up our Bibles and march on city hall? Or, is there something of truth in both approaches?
What does Jesus say about the relationship of His followers to the world in which they live?
Text: Matthew 5: 13-16
"You are the salt of the earth.”
In Jesus’ time, salt was an incredibly important and valuable substance. It served many functions that were well known and which Jesus knew would be clearly understood to those listening to His sermon. For us they are perhaps not quite as obvious, so let’s dig in.
# 1 - Salt was the primary preservative of food.
In the days before refrigeration, salt was the only way to preserve meats and fish that were not consumed immediately. The salted food was kept from rot and decay.
*ill.- When I was a kid, I used to hunt squirrels. With dreams of being as rugged as Daniel Boone, I would skin them and prepare the meat in thin strips. I then took ample amounts of salt and rubbed it into the meat before laying it carefully to dry in the sunshine. Later I was able to feast on my dried, preserved meat. I don’t recall that I enjoyed eating it all that much, but it sure was well-preserved!
Jesus had this function of salt in mind as He told His followers, "you are the salt of the earth."
Followers of Jesus are to preserve the world from the rot of sin. In the same way that the presence of sodium inhibits the growth of bacteria that would spoil meats, our presence should erect a barrier to the work of Satan and his demons.
Wherever we go, we are to inhibit the growth of sin and resist the work of evil. Spirit-filled Believers are God’s preservative agent in the world.
Salt does its preservation work by disappearing into the meat. It is absorbed into the tissues and fibers and begins to block the growth of bacteria. Yet, even as the salt disappears it retains a uniqueness. When salted meat is tasted, the presence of the salt is quite evident.
The analogy should instruct us in our relationship to the larger culture. We must wisely know how to be a part of it, interacting with it, while retaining our uniqueness as a follower of Jesus!