Summary: If you want to influence others to follow Jesus, commune with Him and let Him change you from the inside out.
Once upon a time, a man walked into a little mom-and-pop grocery store and asked, “Do you sell salt?”
“Ha!” said Pop the proprietor. “Do we sell salt! Just look!” And Pop showed the customer one entire wall of shelves stocked with nothing but salt – Morton salt, iodized salt, kosher salt, sea salt, rock salt, garlic salt, seasoning salt, Epsom salts – every kind of salt imaginable.
“Wow!” said the customer.
“You think that's something?” said Pop with a wave of his hand. “That's nothing! Come look.” And Pop led the customer to a back room filled with shelves and bins and cartons and barrels and boxes of salt. “Do we sell salt!” he said.
“Unbelievable!” said the customer.
“You think that's something?” said Pop. “Come! I'll show you salt!” And Pop led the customer down some steps into a huge basement, five times as large as the previous room, filled wall-to- wall, floor-to-ceiling, with every imaginable form and size and shape of salt – even huge ten-pound salt licks for the cow pasture.
“Incredible!” said the customer. “You really do sell salt!”
“No!” said Pop. “That's just the problem! We never sell salt! But that salt salesman – Hoo-boy! Does he sell salt!” (D. James Kennedy, Led by the Carpenter, Thomas Nelson, 1999, p. 46; www.PreachingToday.com)
Jesus calls us, His followers, “the salt of the earth” (Matt 5:13), but salt that stays on the shelf doesn’t do any good at all. Instead, Jesus wants us to be out there as a preserving influence in this decaying world. He wants us to make a difference in people’s lives. He wants us to speak with authority so that people will listen and respond?
But the big question is how? How can we as God’s people be a positive influence on those around us? How can we gain a real hearing among the various voices clamoring for people’s attention? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Galatians 1, Galatians 1, where the Apostle Paul defends his apostleship and gives us reasons why we should listen to him.
Galatians 1:11-17 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. (ESV)
Paul makes the point that he didn’t get his ideas from any man. He got them directly from Jesus Christ Himself in Arabia. Now, that’s significant, because Arabia where Mt. Sinai is, according to Galatians 4:25. And that’s where Moses himself met with God to receive the 10 commandments. Paul is saying, “I got my message from God just like Moses did. Therefore, my words carry the same weight as the 10 commandments themselves!” Paul met with Christ in Arabia.
Galatians 1:18-20 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) (ESV)
Paul spent time with Christ before he spent time with any other man. In fact, he spent 3 years with Christ alone in the Arabian Desert before he even met the leaders of the church in Jerusalem – Peter and James. And then he was there for only 15 days, not enough time to learn much, if anything, from them, but just enough time to get acquainted. “Then,” Paul says...
Galatians 1:21-22 I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. (ESV)
The false teachers who dogged Paul’s steps liked to boast of their close association with the leaders of the church in Judea. They loved to drop the names of important people, but Paul tells us of his close association with Christ Himself. Paul’s authority did not come from his connection to important people. Paul’s authority came from his connection to Christ himself. Paul’s right to be heard came because he knew Christ personally, and he had learned from Christ directly.