Sunday, February 20, 2011

Matthew 5:17-20 "Jesus Sheds Light on the Law"

Audio of Sermon

Matthew 5:17-20 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass away from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (ESV)

- By His teaching
- By His living and dying

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus, fellow believers who are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, grace and peace to you in His name!
“Where in the Bible can you find the Law and where in the Bible can you find the Gospel?” This is one of those trick questions that pastors like to ask their confirmation students. We teach that the Law and the Gospel are the two main teachings of the Bible. Simply put, the Law is any commandment God tells us to do or do not do. The Gospel is the good news of God loving us and sending His Son Jesus to save us. Anytime we are told to do something in the Bible, that is Law - such as the 10 Commandments. Anytime we are promised something out of God’s grace, that is Gospel. Most confirmation students figure that since God gave His 10 Commandments in the Old Testament and Jesus lived in the New Testament, that this means that the Law is found in the Old Testament and the Gospel in the New Testament.

But this cannot be true, as we see in our text for today. Jesus in the New Testament speaks about the Law of God. Actually, His entire Sermon on the Mount is basically all Law. Furthermore, the Old Testament is full of Gospel promises - from the promise of a serpent crusher who would undo the effects of sin in Genesis 3 to the Prophet Isaiah expounding on the sacrifice Jesus would make as He was wounded for our transgressions. So the Law and Gospel are contained in both Old and New Testaments.

As we continue to look at portions of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, we hear this morning of Jesus the great Prophet, speaking about the Law of God. Jesus came to shed light on the Law given in the Old Testament. He did so by His teaching, and also by His living and dying. May the Holy Spirit work mightily in us through His Word, that we might better understand the will of God for our lives and live according to it.

When Jesus began His teaching ministry, there was a common misconception - namely that He had come to change things. The Jewish people thought of the Scribes and the Pharisees as the religious authority of the day. Both were very well versed in the Law. The Scribes were professional students of the law and supposed to be experts in its understanding. In a way, we might compare them to professors of the Old Testament. When the Wise Men visited King Herod looking for the new born King of the Jews, one of the groups Herod consulted was the scribes. The scribes knew their Scripture and would have known where the Messiah was to be born. If your wife burnt your dinner and you needed a certificate of divorce, you would go to the scribes to present your case to receive approval and a certificate.

The Pharisees were a sect of Jews that emphasized the strictest observance of the law. They were the ones that would watch your life to see if you were obeying not only the Mosaic moral laws and ceremonial laws, but also the traditions of the Jewish elders. They were always focused on the external keeping of the law. When Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, the Pharisees were ready to accuse Him of sinning against the Sabbath by doing work. When Jesus’ disciples picked some grain from a field to eat on the Sabbath, the Pharisees accused them of breaking the Sabbath by doing work. After all, they were harvesting the wheat, grinding it with their hands, and preparing it for food! After Jesus healed another man on the Sabbath, He told that man to pick up the mat his crippled body had been lying on, and go home. When the Pharisees saw this man carrying his mat on the Sabbath, they accused him of sin because he was doing work by moving furniture on the Sabbath.

In both the scribes and the Pharisees, the people saw men that were leading outwardly very religious lives. The knew all the commandments of God and the were very zealous in living and enforcing that Law. Maybe we could compare them to the monks of today. Men who dedicate their lives to the service of God and live outwardly righteous lives. Men whom we would look at and say, “Now that is a person who is really committed to their religion!” Indeed they were very zealous in their beliefs.

But when Jesus began His ministry, He seemed to bring a teaching that was different from the religious leaders of the day. Since the scribes and the Pharisees were such authorities on the Law, they thought Jesus was doing away with all of the Old Testament with His “new” teachings. Here in our text, Jesus says that this couldn’t be further from the truth. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass away from the Law until all is accomplished.”

Jesus did not come to undo those 39 books of the Old Testament. Not at all. Much rather, Jesus came to expound on them. He came to shed light on them. His teaching WAS quite different from that of the Scribes and Pharisees, but not because He was teaching something new. What Jesus was teachings, was the Law and the Prophets as God had intended them to be understood.

The scribes and the Pharisees had gotten away from the heart of the Law. They were focused on the externals. God is not interested in beings who simply go through the outward motions of His Law. God is interested in hearts. The Apostle Paul gets at the heart of the Law when he writes to the Romans, “Love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Rom 13:10b) Love is at the very heart of the Law. Love for God above all things, and love for neighbor as self.

Jesus came to shed light on the Law by His teachings. As Jesus goes on in His Sermon on the Mount He teaches just this, that love is the very centerpiece of the Law of God. Jesus says of the 5th Commandment, that God wasn’t just addressing the act of killing someone. Rather Jesus teaches, “I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” (5:22) With regards to the 6th Commandment and committing adultery, Jesus teaches that God was not just addressing cheating spouses. Rather Jesus teaches, “Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery.” (5:28) And rather than seeking revenge on those who wrong you, Jesus teaches, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” (5:43-44a)

So, you see, Jesus did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to teach it in all it’s fullness. To shed light on the truth of the Law that God is not interested in outward acts, but a loving heart that expresses itself in loving acts. And Jesus says that this will never change. This has always been God’s intention with the Law and it will remain so until the end of time. This is the light that Jesus shed on the Law by His teaching.

When our confirmation students study the difference between the Law and the Gospel, they learn that the Law accuses and condemns. The Law says, “Do this, don’t do that. And if you disobey God, you will be punished eternally.” Paul writes of the Law, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” (Gal 3:10) How does your life measure up to God’s high standards? Jesus says in our text, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” God is looking for more than the empty, outward observance of the regulations of His law, such as the scribes and Pharisees did. God is looking to your heart. And what does He find there? Does He find a heart warmed with love toward Him and toward our neighbor?

If love is to be the motivating factor in obeying the law and those who do not obey the law of God are cursed, we are left to ask with the disciples, “Who then can be saved?” (Mt 19:25) The law has done it’s job. It has shown us our sin, our failure to love our God above everything else, and our failure to love our neighbor as ourselves. “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom 3:20b) And it has condemned us for failing to live up to God’s high standards. And if our righteousness needs to exceed that of the outward righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, indeed who then can be saved?

We return to Jesus. Jesus whose Epiphany sheds light on the law. But when it comes to the Law, Jesus did not just talk the talk, He walked the walk, as the saying goes. In fact, He walked the walk all the way to the cross. As the eternal Son of God, He was the author of the Law and as such He was above the Law. Yet Jesus humbled Himself and was born under the Law to redeem us who were under the curse of the Law. He came to be our Substitute under the Law. And Jesus lived His life the way God intended with the Law.

Jesus fulfilled the law with His love. While Jesus never used His divine power as the Son of God for His own benefit, when He saw someone sick, paralyzed, or demon possessed He would use that power to help them in every bodily need - even when He was tired or hungry. When He saw the only son of the widow of Nain lying dead on a cot, He raise that son to life and returned him to his mother.

Even when Jesus was spit upon, mocked, and beaten, He loved His enemies. He blessed them that cursed Him. He prayed for them that despitefully used Him and persecuted Him. He literally loved them to death as prayed that the Father would forgive them and laid down His life to save them. He loved us to death as well. He became our sin. He became our curse. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’).” (Gal 3:13)

And it is in Jesus that our righteousness exceeds that external righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Jesus who alone had such exceeding righteousness, takes our sins on Himself and gives us His righteousness. This was the law of love seen in its greatest action as Jesus lived and died for His neighbor, because He loved them.

Jesus did not change anything in the Law. He came to shed light on the true meaning and depth of the Law and Prophets. And what Jesus teaches us does not change. As His redeemed children He desires that we teach and live this way. In doing so we flavor the earth as the salt of the earth and we light of our faith shine, through the love in our hearts shown in acts of love for one another, even as Jesus has loved us, lived for us, and died for us. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:34-35) Praise be to Jesus! Amen.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Matthew 5:14-16 "You are the Light of the World"


Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light at lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
- You cannot be hidden
- You should not be hidden
- You shine to give glory to the Father

Dear fellow luminaries of the world, fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus,
Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day. (Gen 1:3-5) Light. Light is the first thing that God created in the beginning. It’s interesting, isn’t it, that while light was created on the first day of creation, the sun, moon, and stars weren’t created until day four. So the sun cannot take credit for bringing light to creation, it was God who gave light to His creation days before the sun existed!

Throughout Scripture the work of God is associated with light in several different ways. Last month we heard Jesus says that He is “the light of the world.” (Jn 8:12) He brought light into this dark and dying world of sin, much like God made created light out of the dark chaos on the first day of creation. Jesus is light because He is the only source of eternal life, as opposed to the eternal darkness of hell. God’s Word, the Bible, is also spoken of as being light. The Psalmist writes, “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” (Ps 119:105) God’s Word guides us to our Savior Jesus and shows us that He is our only Savior from sin and hope for eternal life. Scripture also talks of believers as being “in the light” as opposed to the darkness of unbelief. Paul writes to the Ephesians, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” (Eph 5:8)

Every light has a source. The sunlight we enjoyed so much yesterday has as its source the burning gases of the sun. The light that comes from this flashlight, comes from the electricity produced by its battery causing the bulb in this light to shine. This morning we hear from Jesus that as believers in Christ we are “The light of the world.” The source of our light is Jesus Himself. We reflect Him who is the light of the world. When the Holy Spirit created faith in our hearts, we speak of Him as having “enlightened us with His gifts.” The Holy Spirit made us the light of the world. The Christian is light in the Lord as opposed to the darkness of unbelief and sin that is in everything else in this world. We have been rescued from the darkness, brought into the light of God by the Holy Spirit, and now have ourselves become the light of the world.

As the light of the world, Jesus teaches us some very special truths this morning in our text. As the light of the world we cannot be hidden, should not be hidden, but instead shine in order to give glory to our Father! May the Holy Spirit who made us the light of the world help us to shine!

Who here likes to stick out? For instance, when you are walking in a crowded mall, which of you would like to stick out like a sore thumb in that crowd? Few, if any of us. There are, however, people I know who like to stick out in a crowd. So rather than wearing commonly colored clothes, they will wear bright neon colors. They want to be noticed as being different. Some of us may want to be noticed, but we do not want to be noticed for being different.

Well, dear Christians, I have some news for you. As believers in Christ you are different. You are different from a majority of the world. The number of believers on earth has always been a small minority. In the days of Elijah the prophet, God said that there were only seven thousand men who were following him. (Rom 11:4) A majority of the world has rejected Jesus as their Savior from sin and are living in unbelief or worshiping a false god. Whether we are talking about the un-religious person who just tries to live a good life, or the many false religions of the world - the Buddhist, the Muslim, the spiritualist, or even most Catholics - they are all told that the only way you can get to heaven is by your good works. You have to live a good enough life, you have to obey the tenants of their particular religion, in order to impress God enough that He will let you into heaven, paradise, or nirvana. They are all based on work-righteousness.

You, however, are different. Your faith, the Christian faith, is different from anything else in the world. You believe that your only hope for eternal life is Jesus. He had to earn heaven for you. He had to live a perfect life in your place. He had to suffer and die to pay off your debt of sin. He had to rise from the dead to free you from the bondage of death and sin. And only through faith in Him are you credited with righteousness. You believe that only through Him are justified in God’s sight.

Even this faith you have, you believe you cannot take credit for. You believe that God the Holy Spirit has changed your heart and your life. Now you live for God and not for yourself. You believe you are His temple, His dwelling place. You are the light of the world. You are different.

Jesus says in our text, “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” We can understand exactly what Jesus is saying here. Because a hill is elevated above its surroundings, if someone builds a city on it, there is no way of hiding it. It cannot be hidden because of its very nature. Especially at night, when all the townspeople have their houselights and streetlights on. For miles around, that city will be aglow in the darkness of night.

As the light of the world, you are that city set on a hill. You cannot be hidden. The rest of the world can see you as Christian and is watching you. They see you dressed up on Sunday mornings and they figure that you must have gone to church. You are different from the rest of the world and thank the Lord for that! I don’t mean that in a snobbish or stuck-up way. As if we are better than the world because we Christians. We are no better than anyone else on this planet. There but for the grace of God, go I. We thank the Lord that He has rescued us from the darkness of unbelief and pray that as a city set on a hill, people may see us from the darkness of unbelief and we can shine the light of Jesus on their hearts as well! So know this, as the light of the world you cannot be hidden.

How does it make you feel to hear that as a Christian, it means that you are different from the rest of the world? How does it feel to hear from Jesus that you cannot be hidden? That your life as a follower of Christ is out there for the world to see? Maybe we feel embarrassed. After all we spend so much of our time and energy trying to fit in. As we mentioned last week, we’re willing to go to great lengths just to fit in. We do not want people to see us as different. We want to be with the “in” and “cool” crowd. So we use the same fowl language and tell the same dirty jokes that the world tells. We join in with the under-aged drinking parties. We want to listen to the music and watch the movies that the world speaks approvingly of. Oh, the lengths we are willing to go to avoid being seen as different.

But Jesus says that you are the light of the world! What is the purpose of light, but to shine! Verse 15 of our text, “Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.” Nobody does that. Nobody lights a lamp and then puts a basket over it to cover up the light it is giving. While we might not light lamps in our houses today, we get what Jesus is saying. When it gets dark outside, none of us turns on a lamp in our house and immediately covers it up with a blanket to keep the light from shining. That would defeat the purpose of light in the first place.

The analogy Jesus is making here is that as the light of the world we should not hide our faith. Imagine if the sun in the sky behaved like that. Imagine if the sun thought, “Well out here in space everything is black and dark except for me. The planets in my solar system don’t give off any light of their own like me. I’d much rather fit in with my surroundings than risk being seen as different from the rest of my solar system.” With that the sun would then go black and no one would benefit from its light. You are the light of the world. A light that should not be hidden!

Rather than hiding your faith, Jesus says, “Let it shine!” “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” You are the light of the world, you were made to shine. And you shine by the way you live your life. You shine by the good works that you do.

We know what works are good in God’s sight. We have a summary of what is good in the 10 Commandments. It is good to fear, love, and trust in God above everything else. It is good to not take God’s name in vain but to use it to call upon Him in every trouble, to pray to Him, to praise Him, and to give thanks to Him. It is good to remember the Sabbath day by gladly hearing and learning God’s Word. It is good to honor our father and our mother. It is good to help and be a friend to our neighbor in every bodily need. It is good to honor and love our own spouses. It is good to help our neighbor improve and protect his property and business. It is good to defend our neighbor, to speak well of him, and to put the best construction on everything. It is good to help our neighbor, be of service to him, and urge him to stay in do his duties.

These are ways in which we let the light of our faith shine. Our faith in Jesus is an inward light which shines its beams in the world through our works. What makes these works good is faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. “He who abides in Me,” Jesus says, “and I in him, bears much fruit.” (Jn 15:5) In Jesus we live fruitful lives. Our faith shines through our good works. Good works which the Holy Spirit produces in us. It is faith in Jesus producing works of love for God and our neighbor.

Notice who these good works benefit. “That (others) may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” This is the opposite of the world’s motivation for doing their “good” deeds. The billionaire wants his charitable giving to be published so people will praise him for his generosity. The monks and nuns think that by taking vows of celibacy and poverty they will benefit because God will reward them for doing this. All of this is selfish and self-centered. It is doing good for the sake of self.

But as the light of the world, we let our light shine that our Father in heaven may get the glory for what we have done. When men see that our lives are different, when they see the love of Christ at work in our lives, when they see the fruits of faith that abound in our lives they give glory to our Father who created us, made us the light of the world, and caused such good works to abound in our lives. Some may glorify the Father in this life as from the darkness they are attracted to the light that they see shining from us. They see we are different. We are the city on a hill and they want to find out what makes us different. We then have the opportunity to bring the Word to them, whereby the Holy Spirit brings them into the light. Or it may not happen that they glorify the Father until Judgment Day, as we heard Peter write in our New Testament lesson, “They may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (1 Pt 2:10) But the purpose of letting our light shine is to give glory to God who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light.

“Let there be light!” These first creating words of God could be echoed in our lives in several different ways. God said, “Let there be light” when He sent His Son into the world to be the Savior of the world. God said, “Let there be light” in our hearts when He called us to faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. God said, “Let there be light” in our lives as we let the light of our faith shine in the world through good works. May the Father ever keep us as the light of the world, may He forgive us for the times we tried to hide our faith, and may He ever work in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure. To God be all the glory! Amen.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Matthew 5:13 "You are the Salt of the Earth"

Audio of the sermon

Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”

- Flavoring and preserving it
- Beware of losing your taste!

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus,
God did a pretty amazing thing when He combined the elements of sodium and chloride. Those of you who know your chemistry, know that sodium chloride is nothing other than salt. Whether we are talking about the salt in your kitchen or salt in the ocean, it is all as a result of the Master Chemist, God, combining sodium and chloride. While doctors may warn us that too much salt in our diet may cause high blood pressure, it is also true that without salt we could not live.

While we have found many different uses for salt, such as using it to make glass and soap, or to melt the ice on our sidewalks and roads, historically salt has been used for two purposes - to flavor food and also to preserve foods. Without salt food tastes bland or even flat. But salt gives food flavor. No doubt Sarah put salt in the food she prepared for Abraham, and so too Mary when she was cooking for her Son, Jesus. And in the days long before refrigerators and freezers, people would use salt to keep their food from decaying. Whether it was meats or vegetables in the garden, salt was used to preserve the food. Salt draws the moisture out of the food by osmosis, thus preventing or at least delaying the decaying process.

This brings us to our verse this morning. Jesus says to His disciples, “You are the salt of the earth.” As Christians, we provide flavor tasteless world and preserve a decaying world. But let us beware, just as salt that has lost its saltiness is worthless, so is a Christian who no longer flavors the world! May the Holy Spirit be with us that we may continue to be the salt of the earth.

Our verse for today comes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Last week we heard the beginning of it with the beatitudes. These are a series of statements from Jesus about the blessed state of His followers. For instance, “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.” (Mt 5:4) Though as Christians we mourn now over our sin and the sin in the world around us, we are blessed because we know we will be comforted eternally in Jesus.

In verses 13 through 16 of Matthew 5, the focus shifts a little bit. Jesus goes from the beatitudes to talk about Christian sanctification. What we mean when we talk about Christian sanctification in this context is the sanctified or holy living of the Christian. We are talking about the good works that Christians do.

As we talk about Christian sanctification it is very important that we make clear why and how we do good works. As with everything in the life of a Christian, sanctified living is the work of our gracious God. It is God who became man to save us from our sins. Because we disobeyed the law of God, He kept it perfectly as our substitute. Because we sinned and earned God’s wrath and punishment, the Son of God took that punishment on Himself and suffered God’s wrath in our place. Jesus earned our salvation and paid for our punishment. Then, when we were born dead in our trespasses and sins, it was God who made us alive together with Christ. He called us to faith. He made us His children.

The same is true when we talk about the sanctified living of the Christian. This too is the work of God. When the Holy Spirit brings us to faith, He creates in us a new man. Our new man of faith is created in God’s image and desires only to do God’s will. Paul writes to the Philippians that “it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Phil 2:13) Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:5) Believing and abiding in Jesus, the Christian leads a fruitful life, one that is full of good works. From beginning to end, from our redemption, to our faith, to our Christian lives, from beginning to end God gets all the glory. With this in mind, let us return to our text.

As we mentioned earlier, God showed Himself to be a master chemist when He created salt. God also did an amazing thing when He combined His Holy Spirit in our lives. He made us believers in Jesus Christ for salvation. Now as believers in Christ, Jesus tells us, “You are the salt of the earth.” Now, what does Jesus mean in calling us “the salt of the earth.” Well, we need to remember what salt was used for in those days - flavoring and preserving. And that is the very thing that we do as Christians.

First let’s consider how we flavor it. The world we live in is full of sin. Even man’s best deeds are made sour by sin. Remember what the LORD said about the earth before He sent the flood? “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen 6:5) Selfishness and hate abound. The world calls that which good evil, and that which is evil good.

This is where we as Christians come in. We supply flavoring to this world by the good works which the Spirit works in us. Take for instance your station in life. Christian husbands and wives, think of the flavoring you bring to a world that despises and belittles sin. Husbands, as other men around you act like pigs and treat women like they are nothing more than sex objects, you bring flavor as you love your wife as your own body. You bear with her in her weaknesses. You support her, you defender, and you love her with a sacrificial love such as Christ had for the Church that caused Him to die for her.

Wives, while women around you bad mouth their husbands and talk about how childish they are, as the salt of the earth you bring flavor when you willingly submit to your husband as your head, just as the Church submits to Christ as her head. While other women disrespect and talk down their husbands, you flavor the world by respecting your husbands. You reflect the attitude of Sarah who called her husband Abraham her lord out of submission and respect.

You young ladies. The young girls of today act and dress pretty racy. They try to show off their bodies to get attention from boys. But as the salt of the earth, you flavor the earth by remembering that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Rather than focusing so much on your external looks, as Peter writes, “rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” (1 Pt 3:3)

Children, as Christians you too are the salt of the earth. Just think about how your classmates and friends disrespect and despise their parents and teachers. As the salt of the earth you bring flavor to the world when you honor your parents and teachers. When your friends talk about how stupid their parents are for the rules they made, you give the world flavor when you speak lovingly and respectfully about your parents.

We even bring flavor to the world in our jobs. Think of how your co-workers belittle and despise the job they have and their employers. Maybe they are only hard workers when the boss is around. They bad-mouth their boss and their fellow workers. But you are the salt of the earth. You realize the work you are doing, you are doing to the glory of God. We serve the Lord and that flavors our work ethic, how we treat our co-workers, and respect we show our employers.

This is all the work of the Holy Spirit in us. He has made us the salt of the earth. If Christians were not supplying flavor to the world, God would have long ago destroyed this tasteless world. It is only the Christians who make this world palatable to God. And in this way we serve as preserving agent as the salt of the earth.

A comparison of the preserving power of the Christian’s salt, might be that of Sodom and Gomorrah. Remember how the LORD revealed to Abraham that He was going to destroy these cities, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave.” (Gen 18:16) At that point Abraham began to ask the LORD that if there were 50 righteous persons in the city, would He still destroy it? Then he asked about 45, then 40, then 30, then 20, then 10. The LORD’s response for each - 50 through 10 - was that for the sake of the righteous He would not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. The salt of the earth would preserve those cities.

The fact that the world is still spinning today is because of the salt of the earth. If not for the flavoring that the Christian brings by his good works, God would have long ago spit out this distasteful world of sin. In a world that is dying and decaying because of sin and death, God is preserving the world for the sake of His elect. As the salt of the earth we flavor and preserve it.

How much of our daily activity and choices, do you think we make out of a desire to fit in? Think about it. The clothing we wear, the things we say, the shows we watch, the music we listen to, it seems that so much of our time and energy is spent on trying to fit in. We do not want to be seen as odd or weird. But with whom are we trying to fit in? We must confess that all too often it is with the unbelieving world. It is one thing when trying to fit in influences the brand of jeans we are going to buy, it is entirely another thing when trying to fit in with the world determines our choice of activities.

This is where Jesus’ words of warning come into play. “If salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” If salt no longer supplies flavor and cannot be used for preserving foods, what good is it? It is good for nothing. In Luke we hear Jesus saying of such salt that it is not even fit for the land or for the manure pile. So to get rid of that useless salt, people would simply throw it out into the street where it would be trampled under people’s feet.

Do you understand the comparison and warning Jesus is giving us here? If we are the salt of the earth, but we are not flavoring the world with our good works - what good are we? We are like saltless salt! We are good for nothing. We are no different than the unbelieving world! We are distasteful to God and are spit out. The writer to the Hebrews warns of the same thing, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.” (Heb 6:4-6)

We must confess that we have often failed in bringing flavor to this sinful world. All too often we have tried to fit in with the bland flavor of the unbeliever. Praise be to God that He has had mercy on us! He gave His Son Jesus into death for our sins and weakness. And for Jesus’ sake God has forgiven us for our lack of saltiness.

How can we keep from losing our flavor? This too is the work of God. God keeps our faith alive and active by His Means of Grace. This morning, right now, the Holy Spirit is at work in your hearts to build up your faith through His Word. Soon, our communicant members will be coming forward to receive the body and blood of Jesus for the strengthening of their faith. These are the tools that the Holy Spirit uses to keep your faith alive and active. Abiding in Jesus, you will bear good fruits. Through the Gospel, the Holy Spirit keeps us flavorful!

You are salt, Jesus says, so be salt! May the Holy Spirit ever work in us and through us that we may bring flavor to this tasteless world of sin, that we may preserve this dying world to spread the Gospel to all creatures. May the Holy Spirit ever keep us salty! Amen.