Scripture: Matthew 5:13-16 -- “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. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
How many times have you heard people say, "God is too loving to send people to hell." Or perhaps, "What you need is more of the love of Christ. If you had more love, you wouldn't speak against the beliefs of other people." And then there are those who say that when you warn others about the danger of what holy scripture calls sin, you are guilty of "hate speech."
First, allow me to point out that such ideas are common in this age, but they would have been laughed at in ages past, when Christian men and women of conscience would not allow their Christian experience and their knowledge of holy scripture to be watered down, attacked, and misused.
Secondly, let me hasten to deal with the idea that God sends people to hell. Nothing could be further from the truth. A lady following some exotic philosophical religion once said to me, "I could never follow a god who sent people to hell." Her lostness is in her own ignorance of God. Those who end up separated from the love of God have constructed that separation themselves. 2nd Peter 3:9 makes that point: "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."
Third, as for the lack of love being behind warning others of sin, we turn to Ezekiel 33:8, where God tells us, "When I say unto the wicked, 'O wicked man, thou shalt surely die;' if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand." Our love of God and our Christian love of our brother and sister should compel us to speak truth in the presence of sin.
The whole idea of "hate speech", of course, is a stillborn idea without merit borne of the political correctness movement that has no justification in scripture, much less in real life. Those who accuse others of hate speech are first, guilty of it themselves through their accusation, and second, they are apparently ignorant of Ecclesiastes 3:8, "There is a time to love and a time to hate, a time of war and a time of peace."
Much of this convoluted misunderstanding comes from those who know of the Christ, but do not know Jesus Christ; those who know of holy scripture, but do not know scripture. Time and time again I must advise people, who are wielding a verse of scripture like a bludgeon, to go back and read the verses before their stated verse, and the verses afterward to gain context. You cannot simply pluck a verse out of context and because by itself it suits your argument, win your argument with it when it doesn't mean at all what you are claiming.
They remind me of the story of the man was convinced he could receive divine guidance by simply opening the Bible each morning and reading the verse upon which his eyes first fell. The first time he tried that method, he came to where the apostle Matthew wrote of Judas, "Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself" (Matthew 27:5). Very disturbed by that reading, he tried it again, this time finding in Luke 10:37 where Jesus said, "Go and do likewise."
We must keep in mind, when studying scripture, to keep the words within their context. A good example is where the New Testament tells us to "work with your hands." So, does that mean a man must literally work with his hands in his job, such as digging ditches, or engaging in such careers as woodworking, agriculture, metalwork? What if a man is adept at being an accountant, or rises to be a bank president? Is he sinning?
Well, of course the answer is no. When you go back to the context of that information, you find a contrast is being made between stealing for a living and working for a living (Ephesians 4:28). And to add to that, in 1st Thessalonians 4:11 and 12, Paul is telling men to stick to their own business, set a good example for others and be self-sufficient. It is about being a good disciple of Jesus Christ, not setting aside jobs that are un-Christian.
As Americans, and even as claimed followers of Jesus Christ, we have strayed far afield from the scriptural characteristics of the Christian life we are to lead. Many of our problems in this day and age, across our troubled nation, spring from a lack of spiritual commitment by men and women, even men and women of faith. If we know what God says about our current problems, to often we are silent, and we avoid taking positions of moral leadership out misunderstood calls for humility, civility, and "understanding."
We don't understand scripture, and we stand in error because of that.
At a time when this nation desperately needs strong ethical and moral leadership, as found only in the Christian scriptures, even God's called Pastors, as well as Elders and Deacons of the Church worldwide hide their knowledge of God under a bushel and fail to advise others not to abandon God to go another direction, that the bridge to God is out that way.
Jesus Christ is the bridge to God. And yes, He is a one-way Jesus. He said Himself, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6)
Those who equivocate about whether Jesus is the only way to God stand in error.
You don't want to stand in error, because James 4:17 warns us, "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." Short version, you stand in error. The danger here is what Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33, speaking to His disciples, "Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven."
The characteristics of the life of those who claim to follow Jesus Christ is laid out very clearly in Galatians 5:22-23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law."
There is no use looking for figs on a lemon tree, or cherries on an apple tree. And there is no use looking for these fruits outside the Holy Spirit. Can men and women live decent, helpful lives without being Christians? Of course they can. Can men and women get to God without Jesus Christ? No, and if you claim otherwise, you stand in error.
If men of good Christian character, believers in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, His death, burial and resurrection, would stand up in the face of evil and declare, "This is wrong! Repent of your sins!", this nation would undergo a revival of faith, a reinstatement of ethics and morals such as we have never seen.
If you are not willing to do that, then yes, you stand in error.
Every individual, man, woman, and child, who has proclaimed a belief in Jesus Christ, should ask themselves, "After salvation, what?"
As an answer to that, Robert H. Kreger has written, in part, "God's purpose for the Christian calls for spiritual growth. 2nd Peter 3:18, "But grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ....."
"2nd Timothy 2:15, "Study to show yourself approved of God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." The Christian is kept alive on earth to fulfill his destiny, which is to become a spiritually mature believer, a spiritual winner. "...a mature person to the measure of the maturity which belongs to the fullness of Christ." (Eph 4:13-16).
"Each believer's life becomes a unique expression of the glory of God in both time and eternity (Romans 8:29-30; 9:23-24), but only the spiritually mature believer's life glorifies God by receiving the highest and best that God has prepared for him (Romans 6:1-2a; Ist John 1:5-2:6). Divine blessings that the Christian can understand and experience and the overt manifestations of the Christian way of life only come as a result of spiritual growth."
That spiritual maturity, that fullness of Christ, that growth should be manifesting itself in the American community every day of our life. Our entire nation would be at peace with itself and with our neighbors if every decision, every action, every plan had at its base God's manifested purpose.
So what should we do, you ask. Should we take the locks off of our doors, throw away all security measures of protection, trust that those outside of Christ will treat us with kindness and compassion?
No, because we are not there, yet. Jesus warned His disciples in Matthew 10:16, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." You and I live and work among two-legged animals who would do harm to us and those we love, given the opportunity. Violence is rampant and very nearly out of control in this nation. Even our police are ramping up to military levels of protection and control, to a disturbing level for a freedom-loving citizen.
Data compiled by the FBI shows a 1.2% increase in violent crime. Doesn't sound like much, but that's nationwide. According to the FBI, violent crime includes murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. The following comes from the June 13th edition of the Wall St. Journal: "Three cities — Birmingham, St. Louis and Oakland — were among the 10 worst cities in the nation for both violent crime and property crime. In some of the most dangerous cities, specific types of property crime were especially common. Flint and Cleveland had among the highest burglary rates, while Oakland, Detroit and St. Louis had among the highest rates of vehicle theft."
The top ten most violent cities, from most to less violent, are Cleveland, Ohio; Baltimore, Md.; New Haven, Conn,; Birmingham, Ala. ; Stockton, Calif.; Memphis, Tenn.; St. Louis, Mo.; Oakland, Calif.; Detroit, Mich.; and Flint, Mich. These represent a significant failure of the Christian influence in these violent cities.
Of them all, Detroit, Mich., with 54.2 murders for every 100,000 people reached the highest level in the past 40 years. They have a 40.9% poverty rate, and their unemployment rate at 18.6% is much higher than the 8.1% national rate.
The city’s aggravated assault rate of 1,320.8 cases per 100,000 people was also the second highest in the U.S. Those are people we are talking about, people murdered, maimed, hurt, families devastated by the lack of Christian ethics and morals throughout the community of Detroit.
Detroit seems to be one of the worst nationally acknowledged humanitarian disaster spots in America. Block after block of deteriorating homes, empty and abandoned. A city that has attempted to file for bankruptcy. The soaring crime rate simply leads the list of many reasons not to move to Detroit.
To make matters worse, the huge Islamic presence in Detroit has become a growing problem for those who wish to worship in the name of Jesus Christ. They have been arrested for praying in public. They have been arrested for handing out Christian tracts. They need your prayers around the clock.
Some people, in discussing the disaster of Detroit, have asked is Chicago next? How about Chicago now? They have serious crime problems in Chicago, much of it involving black on black crime. Unfortunately, when I Googled "Black on Black Crime in Chicago," most of what I got were leftist blogs attempting to divert attention back to "white racists ignoring the problem." I guess "black racists" can't accept any blame because so many people tell me that "black racists" don't exist. I and my family members have the lumps and memories to effectively dispute that lie.
The only media dealing factually with black on black crime in Chicago seem to be theguardian.com, thedailybeast.com, and thugreport.com. Whites want to deal with it because they still live in Chicago, but black opinion leaders just want to blame "whitey" for it. Makes no sense to me. In Christ there is no difference, but many have abandoned the words and the cause of Christ. Black young men and women are dying, black young men and women are going to prison for their crimes. Why isn't black leadership dealing with this? Why isn't Chicago's black Mayor dealing with this? Why isn't America's first black President dealing with this? I suggest it is because they stand in error.
Like Detroit, Chicago is replete with Islam representation, with mosques, Islamic centers, and web sites determining the seven times of prayer across the city. Why can't they do better in the crime and home security arena? Because they are in error.
Some have suggested that God is punishing such cities, indeed, America, for turning their back on Him. I suggest to you that God need not actively punish those in error, but He need simply remove His arm of protection.
Deuteronomy 33:27 -- "The Eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." -- shows us that the arm of God symbolizes His protection. And in Psalm 91:1-4 we read, ""He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust. Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust: His truth shall be thy shield and buckler."
God is our refuge in times of trouble, and we naturally take shelter in His protective arms. But we need to stay in communication with our God, through a strong prayer life and communion with Him. God wants to protect His children, but if we refuse to be His children, we have lost that option. Jesus said it plainly in Luke 6:46, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?"
Our verse for today, Matthew 5:13-16, speaks to what is wrong with this nation today. “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. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
Is the light in America going out? Has life lost its Christian savor in America? You cannot speak for others, so speak only for yourself. How far does your light reach? Are those around you seeking the seasoning that makes your life what it is?
Light the light right where you are. Share the salt. Amen.