Summary: Christians today have both a negative and a positive role in society. The negative role is to restrain evil. The positive role is to spread the Gospel and do good works.
1. The first purpose God has for the church today is preservation
2. The second purpose God has for the church today is propagation
I’ve got a book at home called Seven Men Who Rule the World from the Grave. Some of the names might not ring a bell. Names like Julius Wellhausen, John Maynard Keynes, and Soren Kierkegaard. But we are all very familiar with names like John Dewey, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, and Charles Darwin. Each of these men came from different backgrounds. Some were rich, some were poor. Some were successful in school, some weren’t. Oddly enough, most of them came from some type of a church background. Karl Marx—years before he came up with the idea of Communism—went to Christian school and thought about becoming a Lutheran minister. At one time Charles Darwin, before he came up with his godless theory of evolution, studied to be a minister at Cambridge. These 7 men developed godless ways of thinking in education, economics, science, religion, psychology, government and philosophy that have shaped the world we live in today. They’re all dead, but their godless ways of thinking have a profound influence on us today. When we look at how messed up the world is around us, we can lay the blame at the feet of these men and their influence. Or can we? Where have we been as all this has gone on around us? Where has the church’s influence been? Have we forgotten our role as the church in the world today? Have we forgotten our purpose? What is our purpose? This morning as we looked at the Beatitudes, we went on a quest for blessedness. We looked at those things that Jesus requires for us to be blessed. Tonight as we continue in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus moves from what it takes to be blessed, to what we’re supposed to do once we have been blessed. He moves us from a quest for blessedness to a quest for purpose. As the church of Jesus Christ, God has called us for a purpose. As we look into the words of Jesus this evening, I want each of us to leave this place determined to fulfill God’s purpose for us. In order to do that, we’re going to look at the two purposes God has for His people today. The first purpose God has for the church today is preservation. Look with me in verse 13.
God’s first purpose for the church today is preservation. Many times as Christians, we think of preservation in terms of what God has preserved us from. By sending His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins, He preserved us from the penalty of our sins. After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, by sending us his Holy Spirit to dwell in us, God has preserved us from the power of sin in our lives. But that’s not what Jesus is talking about here. He’s not talking about what He’s preserved us from. He’s talking about what He’s preserved us to do. How He’s preserved us to be a preservative. When Jesus spoke these words over 2000 years ago, there was no such thing as a refrigerator. The Maytag Repairman hadn’t even been thought of yet. In the warm and arid climate where He preached, they had no ice. As a matter of fact, salt was the only means they had to preserve meat. So what does it mean when something is preserved? Think of it this way. When meat is left out in the open, what happens? It spoils. Bacteria begin to grow on its surface. Slowly at first, then they multiply and spread. Then flies and other insects come and lay their eggs on the slowly rotting meat. The eggs hatch into maggots which dig deep and eat and destroy the flesh. Without refrigeration, the only thing which will slow down that process is salt. Now, I know it’s gross, but carry the disgusting picture of that rancid, rotting meat over to the world. Isn’t that just like our world today? There are parts of our world, our country, even this very county, that are rotting before our very eyes. Jesus said we as Christians are supposed to do something about it. As a matter of fact, He said we are the only ones who can do something about it. When Jesus says “Ye are the salt of the earth,” The word He uses for “you” is emphatic in the original. In other words, He’s really saying, “YOU and ONLY YOU are the salt of the earth.” We don’t have much problem recognizing the problem of evil in the world. It’s pretty easy to spot. Our problem is that we think someone else is going to fix it. When we see people in need—oh, the government will help them. When we see people who are hurting—oh, the medical community can help them. When we see people lonely or depressed—oh, counselors or psychiatrists can help them. When we see people who need to hear the Gospel—oh, the preacher can tell them. That’s not what Jesus said. He said YOU and ONLY YOU can help them. The only cure for everything that is wrong with this world is the blood of Jesus Christ. And, Christian, YOU are the only one who is carrying it around. You are the salt that can stop the corruption around you. Not in the whole world, Jesus didn’t give you the whole world. But He did give you those people in your family. He did give you those people you work with or go to school with. He gave you rotting meat all around you. Then He told you to salt it. Preserve it. Preserve it by spreading the Gospel. But what happens if we don’t? What happens if we choose not to be salt to those around us? What if we choose to come to church every Sunday just to warm a pew? What if all we do is come here, hear the Word preached, and then keep it to ourselves? Jesus said that kind of salt has lost its savor. Now think about salt for a minute. If you were to go home and carefully pick out one tiny piece of salt and put it on your tongue, it would still be salty. Or here’s another thing to try. The next time you cut yourself, put that one grain of salt into your cut. It will hurt! Salt is salty. You can water it down, you can mix it with other things, but it is still salty. There is only one thing that can make salt not salty. That is if it isn’t salt to begin with. The sad fact is that many people who claim to be Christians aren’t. Those are the ones Jesus talks about when He says they are, “good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of man.” Salt that isn’t salty is impossible. A person who claims to be a Christian who makes no impact on those around him is an imposter. If you can’t tell the difference between the rotting meat and the Christian, the salt isn’t salt and is only good for throwing out. But what are we talking about here? Are we talking about some type of social activism? Some sort of political movement? Is that how we act as a preservative? If so, how does that make us any different from any other social program? We’re different, because our purpose is not only for preservation, but for propagation. The second purpose God has for the church today is propagation. Look at verses 14-16: