Friday, September 28, 2018

Have Salt in Yourselves

Mark 9:38-50 Jesus said that we Christians are the salt of the earth-- but he also warned us that we can lose our “saltiness”.  That is, we can lose the distinctive effect that we are supposed to have on the world around us so that we give no distinctive “flavor” of Christ to our relationships—no distinctive “purifying” effect to the world around us because our lives are no different than those who do not believe in Jesus.
But the “well-seasoned” disciple is different.  These disciples know that they are called to be salt and light in a dark and decaying world by letting the purifying work of the Spirit do its work in their hearts and by letting the “salt” of the Word give a distinctive Christian flavor to the way they live their lives.
As we consider what it means to be filled with salt from God’s Word we will see that this kind of Christian:  1. supports the mission of Jesus Christ 2.  is careful to cause no one to sin (not even themselves) and 3.  is filled with the Word so that their lives always have a distinctive Christian “flavor.”  The Bible says that:
John said to [Jesus], “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 
The Bible says in 1 John that “The Son of God appeared to destroy the works of Satan.”  In other words, the saving mission of Jesus Christ was being accomplished by that man who was casting out demons-- but the disciples wanted to stop it because they weren’t the ones doing it. 
Perhaps there was some jealousy in their hearts because not too long before this conversation the disciples had failed at this very task of casting out a demon.  But Jesus quickly set them straight.  He said: 
“Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.  For the one who is not against us is for us.
            The “well-seasoned” disciple takes the Lord’s words to heart and understands that the mission of Jesus is much greater than our own little group--even if that group is the original twelve disciples. 
Jesus has destroyed the power of the devil and broken the bonds of death and he wants every Christian everywhere to have a part in that mission of setting people free from Stan’s dominion by sharing the Gospel.
Far beyond the walls of our own congregation are fellow Christians who are working in the harvest field of souls and we are glad to support the mission of Jesus beyond our own congregation and want to make sure that we ourselves are a part of that mission through our own works of mercy and witness.  Jesus says:
Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward. 
            Compared to driving our demons, giving a cup of water to fellow Christian may not seem like such a big thing.  But the Lord’s accounting is very different than ours!  Every work of mercy done in Jesus’ name is remembered by him and will be graciously rewarded by him on the Last Day.
And so when we gather food for the poor and serve meals to the homeless and welcome women in the midst of troubled pregnancies and take a stand for the sanctity of human life, we are doing a work that pleases the Lord. 
The “well-seasoned” disciple knows that they are called to support the mission of Christ through gifts and service.  We also know that we are called to holiness of life so that we do not undermine the salvation of those who are brought to faith. Jesus says:
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 
            When a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ a great spiritual battle has been fought and won.  The forces of death and hell that reigned over that person’s life have been conquered by the Lord of Life.  A prisoner bound by chains of sin in Satan’s kingdom has been set free.  Hell has lost a soul and heaven gained one.
But from that moment on, there is another battle for that person—the battle against sin—the battle of faith.  The “well-seasoned” disciple knows they have been called to walk in newness of life so they do not undermine the faith of a fellow disciple. Let me explain. 
Imagine for a moment a person who has just come to faith.  They know that the way they lived their lives in the past was outside of God’s will and deserving of his eternal punishment.  They want to live a new life. 
But there are Christians around them who engage in the same sins that once afflicted them.  Christians who don’t take seriously the call to live a holy life.  Christians who are cavalier about making use of the means of grace. 
And seeing this poor example in the lives of those who have been Christians for years, their own, new lives of faith are undermined.  They return to the sins that they left behind.  They don’t feed their new faith with God’s Word and Sacraments.  And having little root, they fall away from faith in Christ. 
Jesus says that it would be better to be drowned in the depths of the sea than destroy the faith of a fellow Christian by our sins. 
“Well-seasoned” disciples are called to preserve the faith of those around them rather than cause it to decay by unholy living.  And that is true about our own lives too—we are called to holiness of life for the sake of our own faith journey.  Jesus says that:
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.  And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’
            If these words of Jesus do not convey to us just how seriously Jesus takes sin and how seriously he calls us to holiness of life—nothing will! 
We are to let absolutely nothing lead us to sin—not even the members of our body.  We are to be willing to sacrifice everything if it is leading us to hell—even the members of our body.
Living in sin will destroy our lives eternally.  Hell is real.  It is eternal.  It is terrible.  It is unending, unquenchable, fiery torment—and it is the final destination for all of those who live in unrepentant sin.  We must fight against sin all our days so that we do not fall from faith.  Now, having said that…
Jesus, of course, knew perfectly well that cutting off our hands and feet and eyes and ears will not cure our sin problem because our broken-ness goes to the very center of our being.  But he wants us to see the same-- and so he uses this vivid language about a sacrifice for sin so great that we cannot provide it. 
But he can—and did.
To set us free from sin, his hands and feet that never sinned were pierced for our transgressions.  His lips that never spoke an unkind word were beaten and broken.  His eyes that never looked upon evil filled with blood from a crown of thorns pressed upon his head—and he died for us, in our place—every member of his body an instrument of righteousness for our salvation.
It is not necessary to cut off our hands and feet and pluck out our eyes to be free from sin.  Something much more difficult is required—and that is to be born again into a new life—something that must be done for us by God through his Word and Spirit.  Jesus says:
Everyone will be salted with fire.  Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
            At the beginning of this morning’s sermon we hear our Lord tells us that we are the salt of the earth.  He also said that we are the light of the world. 
Both of these images convey the distinctive difference the Christian is to have on this dark and decaying world.  But what accounts for that difference?  What makes us the salt of the earth?  What gives a Christ-like “flavor” to our lives? 
            The difference is the Holy Spirit working new life in us through Word.  James said that we have been born again through the Word of Christ.  John the Baptist said that we have been baptized—not just with water—but with the fire of the Spirit.  Our lives are shaped and guided by that same Sprit who brought us to life by the Word.
The “well-seasoned” disciple knows the importance that the Word of God plays in the life of faith and how a faith that is not fed by Word and Sacrament can lose its distinctive “flavor”.  And so the “well-seasoned” disciple makes sure that they stay connected to Jesus through the Word so that they are “salted” for service again and again.
We make it a point to study God’s Word and attend church and Sunday School so that the Word of God can have it’s purifying, enlightening effect on their lives and on the lives of those we touch through our service and witness.  Amen.

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