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Summary: Disciples of Jesus can have a profound impact on the world.

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March 18, 2001

Understanding the Kingdom – Part 4

INTRODUCTION

What possible influence could the people described in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) expect to have on this hard, tough world?

Slowly but surely the world is rotting from within.

The erosion has plunged our world into a frighteningly deep darkness.

What can disciples do about it?

The answer is found in our identity as disciples. In Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus reveals our identity and asks us to own up to it.

You must be what you are.

TRANSITION: What is my identity?

I. MY INDENTITY: I AM SALT!

There is the earth and then there is you – the salt.

Jesus isn’t asking for volunteers here. Anyone want to be the salt of the earth? Whether you want to be or not, you are salt.

You is emphatic – “You and only you” are the salt of the earth.

The question is not whether we are salt or not. The question is are we functioning.

Since this is my identity, what is my function as salt?

My function: I hinder the decay of the world and emphasize its best qualities.

Literal salt has a preserving effect and adds flavor to food.

Salt was absolutely essential to the ancient world.

Preserved meats and fish from rotting. Many of Jesus’ followers were fisherman. They packed fish in salt for long journeys, and to keep it fresh on its way to the market.

(Jesus’ use of the word salt: What is good in society his followers keep wholesome. What is corrupt they opppose.)

The world displays a constant tendency to deteriorate. It cannot stop itself from going bad.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)

When each community is true to itself, the world decays like rotten fish while the church can hinder its decay.

Salt is a very stable compound.

It cannot, strictly speaking, lose its saltiness. And that is the irony of Jesus’ point – an inconceivable situation. Salt cannot stop being salt. But it can become contaminated and useless.

Yet Jesus said it could become tasteless.

Salt in the ancient world was not very refined.

White powder contained some sodium chloride, but the rest was road dust. Good for nothing. Same with a disciple that that is diluted by the world. If the salt loses its saltiness, it cannot be made salty again.

In Mark 9:50 Jesus said – Have salt in yourselves…

I am salt. That is my identity. My function? I hinder the decay of the world and emphasize its best qualities. What about my influence?

My influence on the world: Depends on my being distinctive, not identical.

What does Jesus expect?

Quite simply that the salt retain its preserving and seasoning qualities. That it’s distinct:

1. Distinct answers (to today’s questions)

Our message is not a mirror-image of the message of the world. Our answers are different.

People wonder:

 How come they live in the same place I live, but they are able to live a different kind of life?

 How is it I can’t conquer this habit, but he has?

 Why is their love so deep and lasting and ours so shallow and fickle?

 How is it that she can forgive and not hold a grudge, but I can’t seem to get over a wrong done to me?

 These are the most compassionate, patient and kind people I have ever met! I wonder why.

 I’ve never seen such integrity. The guy wouldn’t even think of taking a dime that isn’t his.

When the church is different from the world, the world is attracted to Jesus. Indistinguishable from the world – useless.

What a height from which to fall – from saviors of society to the stuff of footpaths!

We are to confront people with the truth in contrast to the lies that are lulling them to sleep – with distinct answers.

2. Distinct attitudes (or beliefs)

 Don’t mingle so much that you become diluted.

We serve no one by attempting to obliterate or minimize the differences.

One of the great tragedies of the church – constant tendency to conform rather than develop a true counter-culture.

We think differently with the mind of Christ!

Jesus would ask us to…

Be more courageous and outspoken in condemning evil.

Take a stand for what is true, good and decent.

Illus – Chuck Colson is an example of this.

Through his Breakpoint commentaries he challenges me to be saltier than I am – to confront issues that really are causing further rottenness and to praise those things that enhance life as God intended.

You and only you are the salt of the earth. You must be what you are. You must not fail the world you are called to serve.

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