Monday, November 30, 2009

Embracing God's Mission For Your Life

Psalm 67 is not as well known as some of the other psalms more famous psalms. But prominence and significance do not often walk together hand-in-hand. Such is the case with Psalm 67. Even though it is somewhat obscure, Psalm 67 has an important message that can change your life and change the world. The message is that the Lord God desires to use your life to reach the world for his glory.

Psalm 67 is considered THE MISSIONARY PSALM, because of the emphasis it places on God being known, praised, enjoyed, and feared by all the nations. In fact, this psalm emphasizes the worship of God being spread to all nations more than any other psalm. Yet this missionary psalm has a very personal dimension. As a member of God’s covenant people, the writer begins this psalm by asking for God’s blessings and ends it in anticipation of God’s blessings. And the idea that I want to impress upon you from this psalm is that the writer’s personal desire for blessings and his missionary zeal for the nations are not in conflict. They are harmoniously related and even dependent on each other. Yes, the psalmist wanted to be blessed. But more than that, he wanted to be a channel of God’s blessings, not a terminal – a river of God’s blessings, not a reservoir – a pipeline of God’s blessings to others, not a faucet into his own house. He wanted to be blessed and to be a blessing. And I submit to you that this is how God desires to operate in and through our lives and this church. God desires to use you and me to reach the world for his glory.

I think I know what some of you are asking yourself. I ask myself the same questions as I meditate on the message of this psalm. Is this really true? How can God use someone like me to reach the world? Does God actually want me to be uprooted be planted in some foreign land as a missionary? The answer is yes and no. Yes, God is calling some of you into foreign fields of missionary work. And I encourage you today to heed the call of God on your life. But this is not the case for most of us. Yet the Lord still has a mission for your life. The story is told of a king who was converted to Christ and decided to denounce his throne in order to serve Jesus with his life. But in prayer, the Lord convinced him to stay on the throne and serve him as a king. The point is that the Lord has called every Christian to be a missionary. But only some of us will have to leave the country to obey that call. If that is not you, the Lord is calling you to embrace his mission for your life right where you are. And Psalm 67 reveals three ways in which God wants to use you to reach the world.


In Numbers 6:24-26, God commands Moses to instruct Aaron and his sons – the priests – to bless the people with these words: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” This priestly benediction is the prayer of the psalmist. Verse 1 says: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us.” The NKJV uses the word “merciful” in verse 1. But the word “gracious” is the more accurate translation. In fact, this Hebrew word is generally translated “gracious” in the priestly blessing in Numbers 6:25. The distinction is significant. The psalmist is not asking God for mercy, which restrains the divine punishment one deserves. He asks God for grace, which grants the divine blessings one does not deserve.

This is the psalmist’s request: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us.” Notice that the gracious blessings of God are pictured here in physical terms, with God’s face shining on his children. The psalmist did not want to experience the darkness of having God turn away from him. So he asks God to smile on him in such a way that the glory of God’s shining face would light up his life. Simply put, the psalmist asked God to bless his people in a great way. And this request teaches us that there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking God to bless your life. In a real sense, the psalmist was asking God for blessings that were already his. The point of the priestly blessing was to remind Israel that they were God’s blessed people. In Numbers 6:27, God says: “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” And if you have received Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord by faith, you have already been blessed. Ephesians 1:3 says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” In Christ, we are God’s blessed people. And through Christ, we have access to the blessings of God in our lives.

Verse 1 records the prayer request for God’s blessings; verse 2 records the intended result of these blessings: “that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.” The psalmist teaches us here how to pray personally and selflessly at the same time. He prayed for the blessings of God. But he was not just thinking about himself. And he was not just thinking about his family, tribe, or nation. He was thinking about people that he, most likely, would never personally meet. He was thinking about all the nations of the earth. The psalmist prayed personally and selflessly at the same time. And his example confronts us with the fact that we should not seek God’s blessings primarily for our own comfort, benefit, and prosperity. WARREN WIERSBE writes: “A blessing is a gift from God that glorifies his name, helps his people, and through them reaches out to help others who will glorify his name.” Mark it down: God blesses us that we might be a blessing to others. And God will soon stop sending blessings to you if he cannot send blessings through you.

So the psalmist prayed for personal blessings with selfless intentions: “that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.” The psalmist wanted to be blessed so that others might know God’s way. The implication here is that people will not – cannot know the way of God naturally, inevitably, or automatically. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve at us out of house and home. And our own sin has shut us out of the way to God, the way to truth, the way of righteousness, the way of forgiveness, and the way to heaven. The good news is that there is a way back to God. And God wants to use you and me to show lost people the way home to God. God wants to use us to get the message out that the only way back to God is through the righteous life and atoning death of Jesus Christ. In John 14:5, Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” And in John 14:6, Jesus answered: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” We who live on this side of Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter know that God’s way and saving power are only known through the Lord Jesus Christ. So we should live, pray, and serve so that everyone may know who Jesus is.



In the opening verses of this psalm, the writer prays for the blessings of God, so that all the nations might know God’s ways and God’s saving power. But verses 3-5 show us that world evangelization itself must not be our goal. The salvation of the nations is simply a means to an infinitely greater end: the glory of God. We pray that the nations may know God so that the nations may worship God. In Let the Nations be Glad, JOHN PIPER writes: “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church, worship is. Missions exist because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.” This is the passion of the psalmist. He is convinced that God is worthy of the highest praise. And it is expressed by his longing that all the nations would join in praising God. In fact, this is the refrain of Psalm 67. It is recorded in verse 3 and repeated in verse 5: “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!”

The author of Psalm 67 is anonymous. But whoever it is, it is clear that he was a true worshiper of the Lord God. But the proof that he was one who worshiped God in spirit and in truth is not found in his personal worship or his corporate worship with the assembly of Israel. The proof of his worship is found in the fact that he longed for the unsaved people of the Gentile nations to repent, believe, and worship the true and living God. He desired to see the exhortation of Psalm 100:1 fulfilled: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!” This is the passionate longing of every true worshiper.


Matthew 28:18-20 records what we call THE GREAT COMMISSION. Jesus declared, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus Christ is the sovereign Lord that reigns over all creation. And he has charged his followers to lead those who do not know him to repent of their sins, trust him for salvation, and follow him in obedience. But note the scope of this mission. Jesus does not call us to make disciples of our family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and classmates - even though the unsaved people in our circle of influence desperately need our witness for the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But Jesus calls us to a mission that is far greater than just our family and friends. He calls us to make disciples of all the nations – of all the unreached peoples of the world. This is a mission that is as small as your neighborhood and as big as six billion people. Yet because Christ has authority over all creation, all the nations of the world should love, trust, and serve him. This is the ultimate goal of our evangelism and missions and outreach – that a greater number of worshipers will praise the Lord!

This psalm uses a literary device called Inclusio. Inclusio is when a statement is repeated to give emphasis to what is said between the repeated statements. Psalm 67 is an example of this. In verses 3 and 5, the psalmist expresses his longing that all peoples would be converted to worship God. But verse 4 is the central, pivotal statement the psalmist seeks to emphasis in this psalm: “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.”

True worship is a two-sided coin. It is in spirit and in truth. It is rooted in both personal experience and external truth. The WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM may explain it best: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” These are the two sides of worship. The glory of God is to rise far above and beyond us. But the enjoyment of God is to dwell within us. Our text reflects this. Verses 3 and 5 call for the nations to glorify God: “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!” But verse 4 calls for the nations to enjoy God: “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy.” Why should the nations of the earth renounce their idol gods turn to the living God in joyful singing? Verse 4 gives two reasons: “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the people with equity and guide the nations upon earth.” This statement affirms the holy justice and sovereign authority of God. But it does not point to these divine attributes as reasons to avoid God in the search for joy. Rather, it presents them as reason why unsaved, unbelieving people ought to be converted and sing for joy in God.

THERE IS JOY IN THE HOLY JUSTICE OF GOD. Verse 4 says of God: “you judge the peoples with equity.” I know it may sound odd to speak of finding joy in the judgment of God. But the psalmist does not call for the nations to be glad about the judgment of God itself. He calls for them to rejoice in the manner of God’s judgment. God judges the peoples with truth, equity, and righteousness. The nations should be glad in God because you can trust God to always do what is right. And do not indict the holy justice of God by the poverty, racism, violence, injustice, and corruption that is so rampant in the world. Blame sin for that; not God. Instead, measure God’s holy justice by the cross of Jesus Christ. It was there God judged the nations by placing the guilt on our sins on his own dear Son. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” On the cross, God treated Jesus as if he had committed all of our sins, so that by faith he might treat us as if we have performed all of the righteousness of Christ.

THERE IS JOY IN THE SOVEREIGN AUTHORITY OF GOD. Verse 4 says: “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the people with equity and guide the nations upon earth.” The nations of the world are in need of guidance. But where should we turn to find it. The psalmist says the nations should rejoice in the fact that God guides the nations. This term “guide” does not refer to the wisdom with which God works in the world; it refers to the authority with which God works. The NKJV renders it better: God will “govern the nations on earth.” God rules over the nations. Psalm 103:19 says: “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.” Our God is sovereign. That means he reigns in perfect authority over everything and everyone at all times. God is in charge of everything. God is God all by himself. And we ought not to be turned off by this. We ought to rejoice and be glad to know that our lives and the direction of our world is not the result of chance, accident, or circumstance. Romans 8:28 says: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God guides, guards, and governs everything that happens in this world. And the nations should rejoice to know that he has the whole world in his hands.


Psalm 67 ends the same way it begins: with a statement about what it means to be blessed. Verse 6a describes the blessed life in agricultural terms: “The earth has yielded its increase.” The grammar of Psalm 67 is somewhat complex. Consequently, translators disagree as to whether this statement should be rendered in the past tense (“The earth has yielded its increase”), or the future tense (“The earth shall yield its increase”). But either way you read it, it is affirmation of the faithfulness of God. Foundationally, this statement highlights the dilemma of human inability. Think about it. The farmer works the field. But he cannot make the earth yield its increase. God must bring the harvest. In 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, Paul says: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” Paul could not produce a harvest own his own. He needed to partner with the labors of Apollos. But Paul and Apollos couldn’t produce a harvest together either. All of their labors would have been in vain if God did not give the increase and make it grow. So the fact that God causes the earth to yield its increase affirms that we can trust the faithfulness of God to take care of us when we cannot take care of ourselves.


Furthermore, the earth yielding its harvest is a picture of the constant, providential, and generally unnoticed manner in which God takes care of his people. The process of crops growing in the field is not a noisy, obvious, and sensational thing. The earth yields its increase quietly. But it is a mighty work that only happens because of the faithfulness of almighty God. In Genesis 3:17-18, God punishes Adam’s sin by declaring: “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you.” Because of sin, all we can produce is thorns and thistles. Only God is able to make the earth yield its increase. And God is faithful to provide. But the faithfulness of God is most often not demonstrated in sensational ways – a new this, I bigger that, a better the other. The faithfulness of God is regularly demonstrated in the ordinary but perpetual ways God takes care of his children. You have life, health, and strength because God is faithful. You have food, clothing, and shelter because God is faithful. You have family, friends, and loved-ones because God is faithful.

And because we can put our confidence in the faithfulness of God, we can be confident about the favor of God. Verses 6-7 read: “The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!” In verse 1, the psalmist prays that God would be gracious to him and bless him. Now, in verses 6-7, he announces the future arrival of God’s blessings with confident expectation. But he does not expect the coming favor of God because he has earned it or deserves it. His confidence is in the faithfulness of God, not his own. Because God faithfully causes the earth to yield its increase, the psalmist was confident that God would bless them in the days to come. And I submit to you because God is faithful, you too can live with the expectation of God’s blessings on your life. In Lamentations 3:21-24, Jeremiah says: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion, says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’”

I repeat: Because God is faithful, you can live with confidence that God knows when – where – how to bless you. He is ready, willing, and able to bless in such a great way that all the nations will fear him. Verse 7 says: “God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!” What is the fear of God? The fear of God is the fear of God. That is, if you really know and worship God; there ought to be some things you are afraid to say. There ought to be some things you are afraid to do. There ought to be some places you are afraid to God. This is the goal of God’s blessings in your life: that the ends of the earth should fear God. But the good news of the fear of God is that if you really fear God; you don’t have to fear anything else. Psalm 23:4 says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 46:1-3 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” And Psalm 118:6 says, “The Lord is on my side, I will not fear. What can man do to me?”



Sunday, November 29, 2009

Notes from Sunday - 11/29/09

We emphasize world missions and local outreach on fifth Sundays at Shiloh. Praise God for those who set aside a gift to share toward our mission and outreach efforts.

A big “shout out” (see, I can be hip, too) to Henry Meyers for sharing with us today about the work of Mission Harvest America.

Our Sunday morning Bible Study Fellowship groups are studying through The Fundamentals of the Faith workbook (produced by Grace Community Church in Southern California and published by Moody). I am encouraged by the reports I am receiving of how our members are learning and growing. 3 John 4.

Our women’s chorus led us in musical praise today. I am grateful to God for their service.

As always, I am grateful for all of the guests who were in worship with us today. It was good to meet Shiloh member relatives who were in town for the holiday.

Praise God for the family that was baptized in our service this morning.

My little sister, Donetta, sang one of my favorite hymns today: “Only What You Do For Christ Will Last.” (Please pray for her as she makes her way home to Oklahoma City this week).

I decided to preach today on Missions. I preached from Psalm 67, which is called “The Missionary Psalm.”

This psalm has had a tremendous impact on my view of missions. Rather than focusing on the needs of men, it focuses on the glory of God. Our devotion to God should move us to strive to reach the nations.

Random testimony: I love the book of Psalms!

I have been struggling with sinus problems the past couple of days. It made it very difficult to preach both times today. It was hard to just talk, which made it hard to concentrate. Thank God for his help. Please pray for me.

I plan to resume my study of Philippians next week with a message on chapter 4, verses 2-3.

Praise God for those who were added to the church today.

No Cowboys today. They took care of business Thursday by beating down the Raiders The Cowboys now lead their division with an 8-3 record.

Please make note that Shiloh has a new web address:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Out of the Salt Shaker

Matthew 5:13

Sodium Chloride – SALT - gets a lot of bad press. It is blamed for everything from hypertension to obesity to heart disease. The need for salt is questioned. Its use is discouraged. And its presence on many tables is often more decorative than anything else. But this was not the case when Jesus announced to his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth.” In the cultural world of the ancient Near East, salt was an essential and valuable commodity. For example, the Roman government often paid their soldiers’ wages in salt. And a good, faithful man was said to be “worth his salt.” In fact, our English word “salary” comes from the Latin word, salarium, which means to trade or barter with salt. Salt served a wide array of purposes in the ancient world. Interestingly, scholars have just as many interpretations of what Jesus meant by this statement about salt in Matthew 5:13. But of all the possible meanings, there are three primary interpretations that deserve our attention.

First of all, SALT PREVENTS DECAY. In the ancient East, families did not have refrigerators or freezers. To prevent meat from spoiling, they would pack it in salt. The salt would slow down the process of spoiling. That is what it means for Christians to be the salt of the earth. The presence of the saints in the world is a sovereign act of restraining grace. We are the salt of the earth, without which the forces of evil would have little or no resistance in the world. Secondly, SALT PROMOTES THIRST. When you intake a lot of salt; you become thirsty. And that is what it means for Christians to be the salt of the earth. We ought to live in such a way that we cause people to be dissatisfied with the passing pleasures of the world and to become thirsty for the living God. In Matthew 5:16, Jesus says, “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.”

The most obvious use of salt, in both the ancient and modern world, is that of a flavoring agent. SALT PROVIDES FLAVOR. It seasons. It makes things taste better. One little boy said, “Salt is what makes food taste bad when it’s not on it!” I believe this is the primary point Jesus makes when he says, “You are the salt of the earth.” The latter part of the verse supports this, as Jesus warns about the consequences of salt losing its flavor. Christians are to the earth what salt is to food. As salt makes food taste better, followers of Jesus Christ are to influence this sinful world for the kingdom of God. We are to be kingdom condiments. We are to be sanctified seasoning. We are to add godly flavoring to this insipid world. To be the salt of the earth that Christ calls us to be, we must live our lives for God, not for this world. We are the salt of the earth. But we are salt for God. We live for the pleasure of God in order to make a difference in the world.

Here’s the issue. God is holy. This world is sinful. And our holy God cannot tolerate sin. So he has left the church on earth to salt it so that he can tolerate this sinful world. Of course, that does not mean that Christians are perfect. Rather, we are people who have experienced the goodness of God in Christ and who, as a consequence, live to glorify God and enjoy him forever. The presence of citizens of the kingdom of heaven makes this corrupt world palatable to the holiness of God. We are the salt of the earth. This principle is illustrated throughout scripture.

• We see this in Noah and the flood.
• We see this in Joseph and Potipher’s house.
• We see this in Lot and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
• We see it in Paul and the pagan sailors who were shipwrecked with him.
• And we ultimately see it in the church of Jesus Christ.

We are the salt of the earth. But are we living and serving and representing the kingdom as Christ has called us to? VANCE HAVNER wrote, “For too long we have been tickling palates with fancy flavors, spicy relishes, and clever recipes borrowed from the world. Too many pulpits serve gourmet theology with menus from Hollywood and are trying to please the jaded appetites of the fed-up humanity. But what we really need is some old-fashioned salt. And if we do not start producing more of it in our churches, we shall be good for nothing.” I agree. And I stand to say let the church be the church! And what is the church? You are the salt of the earth. In the scientific chart of elements, salt is sodium chloride. But in Matthew 5:13, Jesus gives us the place of salt in the kingdom chart of elements.


The first two words of Matthew 5:13 are crucial: “You are…” These two words tell us that this statement is a description, not a prescription. It is not a command or an exhortation. Jesus is not challenging his followers to some ideal behavior; he is simply stating the nature of kingdom citizenship. You are the salt of the earth. Jesus does not say, “You should be salt.” He does not promise, “You will be salt.” He does not command you to be salt. He does not exhort us to act like salt. He does not encourage you to strive for saltiness. And he doesn’t exhort us to pray that God will make you salt. He says, “You are the salt of the earth.” In this statement, our function as salt is assumed. But our nature as salt is explicit. In fact, it’s emphatic, “You, and only you, are the salt of the earth.” The fact that Jesus says salt is what you are makes a vital point about maximizing kingdom influence. The Lord considers who you are to be more important that what you do. And the Lord is only pleased with what you do when it flows from who you are.

In many instances, churches emphasize performance and ignore character. We give positions of influence to people based on their talents, longevity, or connections. And we often fail to factor in the things that matter the most – like conversion experience, spiritual vitality, Christian maturity, biblical qualifications, godly wisdom, moral purity, and Christlike humility. But God will not settle for salt substitutes. God is not as concerned with your gifts, talents, and abilities as he is your holiness, godliness, and Christlikeness. With God, character precedes and predetermines performance.

D. MARTIN LLOYD-JONES said, “Christians, by being Christians, influence society almost automatically.” Indeed, you can make a difference in this world by just being who you are. Just be salt. Act like a Christian. Conduct yourself as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. What does that look like in practical terms? Jesus describes the God-blessed, Christ exalting, and kingdom focuses life in Matthew 5:3-12. It is to be poor in spirit. To mourn. To be meek. To hunger and thirst after righteousness. To be merciful. To be pure in heart. To be peacemakers. To rejoice in undeserved persecution. To be the salt of the earth is to live in such a way that your life makes the gospel of Jesus Christ more attractive to this lost world.

There is both good news and bad news here.

I’ll give you the good news first. The good news is that God uses salt. That is, God uses ordinary things. Aren’t you glad Jesus didn’t describe those he uses as the gold of the earth? Or the silver of the earth? Or the jewels of the earth? Then most of us would not be fit to represent the kingdom of heaven in this world? But God in his sovereign grace uses ordinary people like you and me. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 says, “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, nor many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” Thank God he uses salt. That means that God can use you.

• God can use you without great talents.
• God can use you without a seminary degree.
• God can use you without a lot of money.
• God can use you without social prominence.
• God can use you without physical beauty.

Have you struggled to find your spiritual gifts? Be encouraged and know that God’s personnel department has a wise variety of available jobs. Jesus told us to be the salt of the earth. There are some fourteen thousand industrial uses for salt. That’s a lot of possibilities! All God needs of you in order to use you is all of you. And that is the bad news. The good news is that God can use you. God wants to you use. In fact, God will you use. In John 15:8, Jesus said, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” In other words, it’s God will to use you. Joni Eareckson Tada writes, “Frankly, I think we’re being redundant to ask God to use us. We’re requesting him to do something he already desires to do.” So if God is not using you to influence this world for his glory, it’s not because he doesn’t want to use you. But it may be because you have not made yourself usable. You may not have made yourself useful. You may not have made yourself available.

Suppose you have buy a house or building, and the former owner comes to you with the keys. There are twelve rooms in the house. But he only gives you six keys. You say, “Where are the other keys?” “Oh,” he says, “You can’t have them! There are some rooms I don’t want you to see. There are some things I want you to move.” Of course, you say, “I purchased the whole house. And I want all the keys!” Likewise, God cannot use you if you don’t make yourself totally available to him. So sometimes God will start shaking things up in your life to make you useful. You are the salt of the earth. But God cannot use you to influence the world for the kingdom if you never get out of the saltshaker. So there are times when God has to take you out of your comfort zone, turn your life upside down, and start shaking things up in order to make you useable for his glory.


Notice Matthew 5:13 again: “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.” After describing his followers as the salt of the earth, Jesus raises a dilemma. What if the salt loss its taste, flavor, or savor? What do you do if the salt is no longer salty? At this point, commentators scramble to rescue Jesus. Salt is a stable compound. It never loses its taste. But the commentators, determined to protect Jesus from reproach, explain that the salt made in the granaries near the Dead Sea were actually unstable and could lose its saltiness if adulterated by other substances. When this happened, they say, the salt would be tossed out as useless and trampled under the feet of those who passed along the way.

That sounds interesting. But that kind of cultural reinterpretation of the text gives Jesus protection that he may not want. I think Jesus intentionally turned this word picture on its head to make an essential point about the kingdom influence his followers are to have in this world. Here it is: Salt is different. For salt to influence the taste of food, it must first have intimate contact with it. So much so that the salt dissolves and disappears as it infiltrates the food. But even though the salt becomes so thoroughly entrenched in the food, you know there’s salt in the food because the presence of the salt makes the food taste different. But what use would it serve to put salt on food if it tastes no different than the food you place it on? What good is salt that is not different? If salt becomes tasteless, what do you do, salt it? This ridiculous scenario is meant to be a divine warning about the great contradiction and severe consequences of worldliness in the believer’s life.

Suppose a person accidentally left a steak on the kitchen counter just before leaving on vacation. Upon returning home, he would be welcomed with a horrendous odor. He would stumble to the kitchen, trying to imagine what could cause such a stench. When finding the meat he would not blame the meat for being a rotten slab of beef. He would kick himself for failing to preserve the meat in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, we Christians are often not that logical in our response to this sinful world. We make plenty negative comments and vent great frustrations over this rotten society. But our culture is simply doing what comes naturally. As hard as it is to admit, we should quit leveling blame of decadence on pagans and start asking why the church is not more effectively preventing decay from setting in. And the only way we can make of difference is if our lives demonstrate the difference that Jesus Christ makes. Mark it down.

• It matters how you conduct live each day.
• It matters how you lead your family.
• It matters how you treat your neighbor.
• It matters how you perform your job.
• It matters how you manage your material possessions.
• It matters how you respond to trials and temptations.

Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” Notice the severe consequences for losing one’s saltiness. Jesus said you are good for nothing except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. Think bout that. Some things that lose their original purpose can still be used for other things. But you cannot do that with salt. There is no such thing as recycled salt. Unsalty salt is worthless. A rabbi at the end of the first century was asked how one could make saltless salt salty again. He replied that one should salt it with the afterbirth of a mule. The problem with this answer is that mules are sterile. But that was exactly the rabbi’s point. Moreover, that is the warning the Lord Jesus issues to nominal, worldly, and unfruitful disciples. Luke 14:34-35 says, “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be resorted? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” A disciple who does not live like a disciple is worth about as much as tasteless salt or invisible light.

This warning about the peril of unsalty salt should lead us to examine our profession of faith. Salvation comes when you repent of your sins and put your faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. It has nothing to do anything that you do. It is all about what God has done for us through the righteous life and substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. Salvation comes to those who put their in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of sin. But true assurance of salvation does not come by merely remembering some day in the past when you professed faith in Jesus Christ. And it does not come by tallying up all of the religious things you do. True assurance comes as God conforms you into the image of his Son by the dynamic work of the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 5:17 declares, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” More than just remembering the day when you walked down the aisle and gave the preacher your hand, you ought to be looking into the mirror of God’s word to see if there is evidence of real change taking place in your life.

In his little book, Stop Dating the Church, JOSHUA HARRIS lists ten “must-haves” you should factor in as you search for a church home. The ninth question listed is quite provocative: Is this a church that is willing to kick me out? That may seem to be a harsh factor that would cause you to avoid a church. But, in reality, that’s the kind of church you ought to be looking for. When a person who claims to be a Christian lives in a way that blatantly contradicts all that it means to be a disciple of Christ, a faithful congregation’s responsibility is to begin the process of removing that person from membership and to treat him or her like an unbeliever in the hope that he or she will repent and ultimately be restored.

Now, that may see unloving to you. But I submit to you that what is really unloving is for a person to live in a way that contradict the way of Christ without repentance and be in a church that allows them to think that they are right with God when they are not. I hear people say, “I’m saved and on my way to heaven anyhow?” But that’s not the truth. You don’t go to heaven anyhow. You get to heaven God’s way. So you don’t get assurance of salvation in spite of how you live. You get assurance of salvation by how you live. If you are saved, there will be a difference in how you live.

Let me close with a word to unbelievers and a word to believers.

A WORD TO UNBELIEVERS. Maybe you have refused to accept Christ because of the way you have seen Christians live. “Church people are just hypocrites,” you say. But let me tell you that Jesus Christ is not a hypocrite. And as long as he is who he said he is and as long as he did what he said he did, he is worthy of your trust, love, worship, service, and obedience. In John 14:6 Jesus declares, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Look to Jesus and be saved. Unlike salt, too much of Jesus will not make you sick. To the contrary, he gets sweeter as the days go by!

A WORD TO BELIEVERS. Jesus warns his followers about the consequences of failing to be the salt of the earth. And the severe consequences are that you will not be able to influence others for the kingdom. In fact, just the opposite takes place. You are thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. But notice that it is people who will reject you, not Jesus. If you fail to be what God calls you to be, you rob yourself of the opportunity to be a godly influence in the lives of others. And people may want to have nothing to do with you. But that doesn’t mean that is how God will treat you. God majors in using people who are good for nothing. The emphasis of the text is not the warning. It is the calling: You are the salt of the earth. And the message of the text is that the Lord has placed a calling on your life. The Lord believes in you.

At artist went to visit a dear friend. When he arrived, she was weeping. He asked why. She showed him a handkerchief of exquisite beauty that had a great sentimental value, which had been ruined by a drop of indelible ink. The artist asked her to let him have the handkerchief, which he returned to her by mail several days later. When she opened the package she could hardly believe her eyes. The artist, using the inkblot as a base, had drawn on the handkerchief a design of great with special ink. Now it was more beautiful and more valuable than ever. And sometimes the tragedies that break our hearts can become the basis for a more beautiful design in our lives.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Notes from Sunday - 11/15/09

Praise God for another Lord’s Day in worship at the Shiloh Baptist Church.

I taught my New Members Class for the first time in two weeks. It was good to be back in the saddle again. Thank Deacon Brinkley for filling in.

The choir sung one of my favorite Thompson Community Singers songs this morning – “I Tried Him And I Know Him.” (Does anyone remember all the great "Tommies" songs that Kim McFarland led?). It was very encouraging.

I continued my study of Philippians today with a message on 3:15-19 that I called, “The Importance of Christian Fellowship.”

I actually spent this week studying Philippians 3:15-16. However, Saturday afternoon my plans changed and I decided to preach verses 15-19. I am glad that I did.

I hope to go back to preached the sermon I prepared on verses 15-16 someday. But I really doubt that it will happen.

Next week’s text: Philippians 3:20-4:1.

Random Bible study note: The Bible was not written in verses and paragraphs. It was written in complete thoughts. The verse-chapter divisions were added centuries later. And they are not Inspired.

Thank God for those who were added to the church today.

Congratulations to Pastor George E. Hurtt and the Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church on your celebration of one year together as pastor and people. Philippians 1:3.

I cannot believe the USC Trojans were beat down by Stanford yesterday. Stanford? Stanford! Oh well, no Rose Bowl this year.

Last night Manny Pacquiao made history by scoring at twelfth round TKO again Miguel Cotto. Bring on Pacquiao vs. Mayweather!

The Dallas Cowboys suffered a disappointing loss to the Green Bay Packers this afternoon.

The Jaguars pulled one out against the New York Jets today. Interesting decision to down the ball at the one yard line. Good thing they made the field goal.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

God's Cause

Sovereign God,

Thy cause, not my own, engages my heart,
and I appeal to thee with greatest freedom
To set up thy kingdom in every place where Satan reigns;
Glorify thyself and I shall rejoice,
for to bring honor to thy name is my sole desire.
I adore thee that thou art God,
and long that others should know it, feel it, and rejoice in it.
O that all men might love and praise thee,
that thou mightest have all the glory from the intelligent world!
Let sinners be brought to thee for thy dear name!
To the eye of reason everything respecting
the conversion of others is as dark as midnight.
But thou canst accomplish great things;
the cause is thine,
and it is to thy glory that men should be saved.
Lord, use me as though wilt,
do with me what thou wilt;
but, O, promote thy cause,
let thy kingdom come,
let thy blessed interest be advanced in this world!
O do thou bring in great numbers to Jesus!
Let me see that glorious day,
and give me to grasp for multitudes of souls;
let me be willing to die to that end;
and while I live let me labor for thee to the utmost of my strength,
spending time profitably in this work,
both in health and in weakness
It is thy cause and kingdom I long for, not my own.

O, answer thou my request!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Finishing the Beatitudes

I am preaching through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) on Wednesday nights. Last night, I complete the introductory section - The Beatitudes of Jesus (Matt. 5:3-12).

The next section of the passage in Matthew 5:13-16, where Jesus describes the influence his disciples should have on the world for the kingdom of heaven. Using to gripping and dynamic word pictures, Jesus declares, "You are the salt of the earth" (5:13) and "You are the light of the world" (5:14-16).

Following this paragraph, I will be venturing into new ground in my exposition. Over the past two months, I have taken a fresh look at the beatitudes. But I have benefited from study notes that I already had on file. But I am now at a place in the text where I must study each text from scratch. I am looking forward to digging into portions of scripture that I have never studied or taught before. But it will require a lot more work. So please remember my study time in your prayers and my sequential exposition of Philippians on Sundays and the Sermon on the Mount on Wednesdays.

I preached last night from the final beatitude recorded in Matthew 5:10-12, in which Jesus blesses those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake. I entitled the message, "In the Line of Fire." It was very hard work. But the Lord is faithful. Here is the sermon skeleton from last night's message:

Title: "In the Line of Fire"

Text: Matthew 5:10-12

Series: The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)

Theme: The blessing of Christian persecution

Point: The Lord blesses those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake.


I. The reality of Christian persecution (5:10-11)

A. You will be reviled (v. 11)

B. You will be persecuted (v. 11)

C. You will be slandered (v. 11)

II. The reason for Christian persecution (5:10-11)

A. You will be persecuted for righteousness' sake (v. 10)

B. You will be persecuted for Christ's sake (v. 11)

III. The response to Christian persecution (5:12)

A. Look up and rejoice: "for your reward is great in heaven"

B. Look back and rejoice: "for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you"

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Celebrating 1 Year as Pastor & People

This past week, we celebrated our first year together as pastor and people at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville.

It is hard to believe that a whole year has past since I was installed as the pastor of SMBC. It really does seem like it was just yesterday. It has been a year in which God has proven himself faithful, as always.

I am grateful, humbled, and overwhelmed by the goodness of God in sending me to such a loving people, who appreciate the word of God, and who are willing to follow leadership, and our eager to reach lost people with the good news of Jesus Christ. The Lord could have sent me to a place where the ministry of the word is "out of season." It is the Lord's mercy that he has given me a people as the wonderful membership of Shiloh.

Our Sunday morning services were a blessed of the Lord. Particularly, the 10 AM service was very special. There were several surprises added to the order of service in celebration of my first pastoral anniversary. I don't like surprises! But these were so encouraging. My heart was so moved with gratitude for all that God has done for us. The Lord has done great things in our midst. And he is worthy to be praised!

Our music department brought their A-game as this lead us in musical praise. As always, it was good to have Genesis (children's) choir participating in our worship. It was also good to hear Ray sing again. Glad he is feeling better.

I preached on Philippians 3:12-14: "Striving to Be Like Christ." I leaned into a pitch, took one for the team, in order to get on base. The presentation did not reflect my level of preparation. Thank God his grace is sufficient and his strength is made perfect in our weakness.

Next Sunday's text: Philippians 3:15-16.

Praise God for those who received Christ and were added to the church.

Sunday afternoon, our sister church - The Bethel Institutional Baptist Church - joined us in worship. It was a privilege to have Drs. Rudolph McKissick Jr. & Sr. and the good people of the Bethel family to celebrate God's goodness with us. The Bethel praise team and choir lifts our hearts in praise. And my friend and brother, Pastor McKissick Jr., ministered a great word from Mark 2:1-11 - "The Right Kind of Noise."  

Thank you, Shiloh, for your prayers, kindness, and encouragement. Your expressions of love have uplifted me in more ways that I can express.

I love you. And I daily thank the Lord for the wonderful privilege and sacred duty of being your pastor-teacher.

May the Lord grant us many years together to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ and to advance the kingdom of God on earth in this generation!

Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone be the Glory)


Thursday, November 05, 2009

George Hurtt Speaking @ Shiloh

Last night, my friend and brother, George Hurtt (Sr. Pastor of Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles) spoke for our midweek service at Shiloh.

George served alongside of me during my ministry at Mt. Sinai. And after my departure, George was selected as my successor. Under his ministry, the church continues to grow and have a strong witness for Christ in Los Angeles.

George is my dear friend, brother in Christ, and fellow Gospel soldier. And it was a great honor to have him minister to the saints at Shiloh.

And my goodness did the Lord use him to preach. His message was taken from Psalm 37:7-11. He preached on Waiting on God. Without a doubt, it was a word in season. I needed the message. And so did many other the saints in attendance.

I am very proud of George and praise God for all that the Lord is doing in and through George life and ministry.

Please remember George Hurtt and the Mt. Sinai Church family in your prayers.