Glorifying God in Henderson County
April 15, 2007Series:
It’s Your Serve (Selected Texts)
“Glorifying God in Henderson County”
Series: It’s Your Serve! (1 of 4)
Rev. Todd Linn, PhD and Rev. Rich Stratton
First Baptist Church Henderson, KY
Words in Black: Rev. Todd Linn
Words in Red: Rev. Rich Stratton
For four consecutive Sundays—from this Sunday to the first Sunday of May, April 15th to May 6th, we are highlighting the biblical theme of service. And we’re calling this special emphasis, “It’s Your Serve!” We’re going to be talking about serving other people. Our time together in corporate worship coincides with the time you are spending in Sunday school as we’re all looking at this theme of service together.
You know, Jesus summed up much of the Old Testament with two commandments, or sometimes they’re presented in the Gospels as one commandment with two-parts, but He said this pretty well sums up the teachings of the Law and the Prophets, He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” And then He added this: “And you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:28-31).
Most of us find very little difficulty keeping the first part of Jesus’ command, loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We love God! But that second part, loving our neighbor as ourselves, treating others as we would have them treat us, often comes as quite a challenge because the Bible teaches that our neighbor can be defined as pretty much anybody, people easy to love, people hard to love, and people we think who are nearly impossible to love.
But Jesus teaches that we’re to love others and He often teaches us that we demonstrate our love for others by serving them. So during these four Sundays we’re going to be talking about serving others, sharing God’s love in very practical ways right here in Henderson County.
And many of you know the work has already begun! This past Tuesday morning several of you put your faith into practice by serving others in this community, specifically by handing out free donuts to every employee of every public school in Henderson County. And still others of you served by volunteering your time at Hazelwood’s Gas Station Friday evening, pumping gas and cleaning windshields, as our church gave away $10 of free gasoline to customers at the gas station. Didn’t it feel good to do that? What a blessing! Check out this video clip:
- VIDEO CLIP [90 Seconds].
It does feel good to serve! Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35),” and we’re enjoying the blessing of giving that comes by serving others.
Now we’re going to be looking at how our Lord Jesus teaches us about service by looking at four main passages during these four Sundays. All four passages are from the words of Jesus in all four Gospels. We look at a passage today from the Gospel of Matthew. Next week, we look at the Gospel of Mark, then Luke, and finally John.
- So take your Bible and open to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter number 5.
And while you’re turning there, Brother Rich Stratton, our Minister of Education, is going to come and help me share with you how this morning’s passage teaches us about how we can glorify God in Henderson County this week.
Now we won’t be doing this all the time. Brother Rich didn’t bargain for this when he came on as Minister of Education, preaching every Sunday morning, especially given that we now have a 7:30 service! But given Rich’s gift for preaching, we thought it’d be kind of neat to periodically, do some team-teaching together. So we’re looking at Matthew chapter 5, this morning and I invite you to follow along in your copy of God’s word.
- Please stand for the reading of God’s word. Matthew 5, verses 13-16.
13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
15 “Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp-stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
16 “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven.
In this passage Jesus is teaching His disciples how to glorify the Father by being salt and light. Now we are Jesus’ disciples if we have trusted Him as our Lord and Savior. So we can see that this passage teaches us how to Glorify God here in Henderson County. First:
I. We Glorify God by Seasoning our Community (13)
“You are the salt of the earth.”
What a strange thing to say to someone! You are salt. But if we remember what is the major characteristic of salt, then we understand why Jesus called His disciples salt. Salt seasons food. It provides zest. It has a powerfully good influence upon the food with which it comes in contact.
In Jesus’ day, salt was a rare commodity. In fact, history tells us that Roman soldiers were sometimes paid in salt. Now, that wouldn’t go well with us today—you go to pick up your paycheck, and you get a case full of salt—but in Roman times, it was just like getting your paycheck. In fact, our word, “salary” is from the Latin word, salarium, which means, “salt.” And that is why we have the expression about people being, “worth their weight in salt.”
Salt is good. Without it, food is bland and tasteless. And so Jesus says to His disciples, “You all are salt.” He doesn’t say you should be salt, or you should try to become salt. He says you are salt.
“But if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.”
Now pure salt cannot lose its potency. But some impure types of salt, such as certain kinds dug out from the shores of the Dead Sea area, could lose its flavor. Water would eventually dissolve the sodium chloride, leaving a pile of tasteless, flavorless nothing. I read where this tasteless salt might be stored in the Jewish temple. When it rained and the marble floors of the temple became slippery, this flavorless stuff, good for nothing else, would be thrown out onto the floor to keep folks from slipping around. And so, because it had lost its flavor, it was, good for nothing but to be, “trampled underfoot by men.”
Jesus says that if you and I lose our “saltiness,” our influence as a Christian, then we’re good for nothing. There are few things worse than a stagnant, tasteless, insipid, Christian, merely occupying space in the church, forever pushing people further away from Jesus rather than drawing people closer to Him. So Jesus is teaching how Christians should positively influence people for God’s glory, seasoning all the people with whom we come into contact.
So, as we consider the application of this metaphor, let’s consider a few characteristics of salt.
First, salt cannot be ignored.
You know when you’ve encountered salt. If you’ve ever put too much salt on your food, you know what I am talking about. It cannot be ignored. It is not neutral. That’s right, it’s active. Salt is an active chemical compound. Did you know that salt actually lowers the freezing point of water? That’s why salt is used in the winter to keep the roadways from freezing. You can actually cause a puddle of water to remain liquid at subfreezing temperatures if you fill it with enough salt. And as a Christian, as “the salt of the earth,” it is our responsibility to be active as well. We must keep our own hearts and the hearts of those around us from freezing, from becoming hardened by the world. We cannot be neutral and frozen in the world when Christ has issued to us a calling to be active. So salt cannot be ignored.
Secondly, if salt is absent it is missed.
Have you ever noticed that some foods just don’t taste right without salt? I remember one time getting some French fries from a drive-thru window and heading off to work. I reached down to eat some of those hot fries, but they had not been salted. Yuck! If salt is absent, it is missed.
Jesus was salt. He could not be ignored, and His absence was missed. He was not neutral. Most people either loved Him or hated Him and that’s how it often is with us because salt cannot be ignored. People should know that you live for the Lord and stand for the Lord. Speaking of this influence we have upon others, F.B. Meyer said, “A sudden silence should fall on certain kinds of conversation when we enter the room.” Do you want to know whether you have lost your influence for Christ? How do other people who know you talk in front of you? Do they take you seriously? Or are they shocked when they find out that you’re a member of First Baptist?
Another characteristic of salt is that it must come into contact with something in order for it to have influence. So long as salt merely remains in a salt shaker you don’t know whether it has any zest to it. It is wholly ineffective until it comes in contact with something. But when salt is added to anything else it carries a powerful influence. For example have you ever noticed a car that has endured several winters in a place like Chicago? If so then you have observed the influential nature of salt. When salt comes into contact with certain metals it has a tendency to work its way into the surface of those metals and causes them to change, we call it rust and do not see it as a positive thing. However, the way that it perseveres and permeates and changes everything it touches is the very lesson Jesus was teaching.
So it is with you and I. Jesus says you are the salt of the earth. He doesn’t say you’re the salt of heaven, or even just the salt of First Baptist Church. He says you are the salt of the earth. He says that we need to have influence that we need to need to make an impact on everything we come into contact with. When was the last time you salted someone with the gospel of Jesus Christ? How long has it been since you’ve pointed someone else to Jesus by sharing the Good News or by serving them in a practical way? Well we can’t talk about the characteristics of salt without mentioning this final one:
Salt produces thirst. Physical salt makes you thirsty and that’s how it ought to be spiritually as Christians! Your life and my life ought to make people thirsty for Jesus. Has anyone ever asked you to tell them about the Jesus you serve? Have you ever excited that kind of thirst in the life of another? One of the neatest things that can happen to you and me at work or at school or at the grocery store is to have someone come up and ask, “What is about you that’s different? I want whatever it is you have.” Salt produces thirst.
So we glorify God by seasoning our community. Secondly:
II. We Glorify God by Shining in our Community (14-15)
“You are the light of the world.”
Jesus had said in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world.” But he passes on this role to His disciples. We are to reflect His light.
Just as salt has a “seasoning” influence upon others, so light has a “shining” influence upon others. When people look at us they ought to see the illuminating glory of Jesus Christ shining all over the place, brightening this community with our love. Look again at verse 14:
“A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
Cities like Jerusalem were set on hills. They were in plain view of everyone for miles around. Even at night the city was visible because of the numerous oil lamps burning throughout the evening. What’s the point? The point is, like salt that cannot be ignored, so light cannot be ignored. It cannot be hidden. And because you are salt and light, you cannot be hidden. People do watch you and they are influenced by you.
Comedian Sam Levinson tells about the time his over-protective mother went with him on his very first day of school. His mother insisted on talking to the teacher before leaving him that first day. His mother told the teacher a number of things. And one of the things she told the teacher was that if the teacher caught Sam misbehaving, she should punish the boy next to him. The teacher asked “Why?” and Sam’s mother said, “Because, my little boy learns by example!”
Folks learn by your example. That’s true isn’t it? Have your children ever put on a pair of your shoes and walked around the house pretending to be you? It is flattering when your child does something good that they have seen you do. For example sometime ago when Landon was about four as he was playing he suddenly stood up and said “It’s time to preach” and he began to do his best to imitate me. As you can imagine I swelled with a father’s pride. But I have also observed him doing things of which I am not so proud. Around the same time as the preaching incident Landon made another spontaneous statement. One day as we were driving down the road and someone honked their horn at my flawless driving, Landon without hesitation blurted out “Oh blow your nose, you’ll get more out of it!” Well you can imagine where he had heard that before and if you are really astute you can figure out where I had learned it when I was his age. Remember your little children are watching you. Your sons and daughters are watching you. Your brothers and sisters are watching you. Your classmates are watching you. Your co-workers are watching you. And all of Henderson is watching you as you leave these doors this morning as ambassadors for the Lord Jesus Christ.
We have a shining influence as a church. In this community, First Baptist Church is like a city set on a hill. Jesus says that we should be a shining influence—a spiritual light—in Henderson. We are not to be like the mythical Scottish village of Brigadoon. The story of Brigadoon is one of a village that becomes visible to outsiders only one day every hundred years as a result of the village’s minister who had prayed for this extreme camouflage as a means of protecting the village from change. But Christ calls His church to be visible more than once every hundred years, He calls us to visible more than once a week, He calls us to visible everyday as we seek not to be changed by the world but to be change in the world.
So Jesus says in verse 15:
“Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp-stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.”
Some ancient near eastern dwelling places consisted of just one main room. And somewhere protruding from the wall of that room would be a place where you would put an oil lamp—a lamp-stand. When you wanted to extinguish the lamp, you would take the earthenware measuring basket and cover it up.
Jesus is saying, “Be a shining influence.” There’s no such thing as a silent Christian, a silent witness. Jesus says, if you try to be a “silent Christian” you may as well just extinguish your light. Paul Little in his book, “How to Give Away Your Faith”, says that trying to be a silent witness is ineffective. He says, “It would be like a cancer victim learning about a cure before any other patient knew about it. And after he is cured returning to the ward running, doing handsprings, cartwheels and handstands, while thinking, “I’m going to be a silent witness about the cancer cure.” If he only demonstrates his health, no one else would get cured, he’s got to tell them where to get the treatment.” You can’t point people to Jesus by being silent. People must see Jesus in what you say and how in how you live.
“and it gives light to all who are in the house.”
When you flip on a light switch, the light doesn’t just shine in one particular spot in a room. It doesn’t just shine in the center of the room, or just three feet of one corner of the room. No, it fills the whole room. It gives light to, “all who are in the house.”
Light isn’t just for your own use, it’s for everyone ‘s use. You are the light of the world. The church should shine for everyone: whether you are black or white, whether you have money or you’re poor, whether you smell good or bad, whether you look good or bad.
Some Christians just want to sit in the light, basking in the light. Have you ever seen these folks at the beach with those metal reflectors, just trying to soak up all the light? Well, there are Christians like that. They come to Sunday school and worship and just soak up a lot of good Bible teaching. But Jesus wants us to go a step further. He wants us to get up and share the light with others, knocking on doors, pouring light into all the homes around Henderson, sharing the love of God in practical ways, serving Him by serving others.
You and I must be a shining influence wherever we are. Shine for Jesus at your workplace. Shine for Jesus in your neighborhood. Shine for Jesus in Henderson County.
We glorify God by seasoning our community, by shining in our community, and
III. We Glorify God by Serving our Community (16)
“Let your light so shine (that is, just as a lamp on a lamp-stand shines) before men—for what purpose?—that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” When we serve others in our community, those we serve bring glory to God.
It’s not about us! Jesus doesn’t say, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and say, ‘My, how could we ever get by without you!’” Is that what it says? ‘Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and recognize you publicly before the congregation, mentioning your name often, giving you pins, trophies, and plaques to hang on the wall.” Right? No! “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Here Jesus is instructing us to let our light shine not for the purpose of our being seen but in order that He would shine so brightly in our lives that He can’t be missed. Jesus points out in these verses that we have three choices concerning how we will glorify God in our works and in our service. First, we can do nothing, this is the equivalent to hiding our light under a basket, but this brings no glory to God and is of service to no one. Light hidden and the Gospel kept silent are both of little value. Secondly, Jesus indicates we can let our own light shine. Here, we do good works, we reach out to others, we may even do these things in the name of God, but we do so in order that others will see how good we are, so that others will pat us on the back, so that we will receive the glory. The problem with this approach is obvious, it is not about us, and no matter how brightly we may shine and no matter how good our works may be, our own light is dim in that it does not offer the hope, forgiveness and salvation of Jesus Christ. So the third choice Jesus gives us it really the only choice for Christians. We are to be salt and light in our community, we are to share the Gospel, and we are to serve others, and we are to do all these things not for the purpose of making ourselves look good but for the purpose of leading others to the cross of Jesus Christ. Everything we do is for the purpose of making Christ more visible in Henderson County and around the world.
So the reason we season, shine, and serve is not to point others to us, but to point others to God. This is the ultimate aim of every Christian: the glory of God; that others see our good works and glorify the Father who is in heaven. We live our lives to glorify God in Henderson County by seasoning our community, by shining in our community, and by serving our community.
This weekend we’re bringing glory to God by serving in a number of ways. Many of you have signed-up to season, shine, and serve at the Tri-Fest booth this weekend where we’ll be giving away free things, painting faces on little boys and girls, handing out free bottles of water, and just being there to greet people in the love of Jesus Christ. Others of you are cleaning up the riverfront this Saturday morning or serving in the parking lot by washing windshields and handing out water and coffee to folks as they park on our church parking lot to attend Tri-Fest. And still others of you plan to serve at the concession stand Saturday at the PCMA ball field.
But if you haven’t signed-up yet, sign-up this morning. There’s still room for you, whatever your age, to bless others by serving them. And when you bless others, you are blessed yourself. Remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Don’t miss receiving an eternal blessing by taking just an hour or two this weekend to serve others. As Jesus’ disciples, we’ll bring glory to God together by seasoning, shining, and serving our community.
- Stand for prayer.
Please bow for a time of prayer, heads bowed, eyes closed. In this passage we’ve been reading, Jesus is talking to His followers, His disciples, those who have trusted Him as Savior. You may be here this morning uncertain about whether Jesus regards you as one of His followers. You may be here uncertain about whether your sins have been forgiven, whether you have peace with God and are ready to meet Him when you die.
We’ve been talking a lot about salt, and light, and the Bible says that Jesus is Light and that He gives His light to us. Luke 1:79 says that Jesus came into the world “to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.” Without Christ we are in darkness because of our sin. But if we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior we step into the lightness of His forgiveness. Jesus said in John 8:12, “I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” This morning, step into the light of God’s forgiveness by becoming a follower of Jesus Christ. Receive the Light of Life by turning to Him this morning.
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