Thursday, June 16, 2011

Beatitudes: Salt Of The Earth

It seems like Jesus was starting a whole new subject, about salt and light. But He was actually continuing the theme of true righteousness.

The Pharisees were concerned only with external righteousness. They tended to think of themselves as faultless when it came to spiritual matters, faultless before God and before people. In fact, it wasn’t until the former Pharisee, apostle Paul, understood with the Holy Spirit’s help that the tenth commandment actually had to do with the inner heart issue of envy that he realized he was a sinner.

Real righteousness is an inner matter, it has to do with having godly character, having a transformed personality, mind heart and spirit.

All Jews had God’s word stored in their hearts because they all learned it and memorized it as children.

God had invested deeply in His people:
* God had adopted them as His own people,
* He gave them the patriarchs,
* He gave them His glory to literally live in their midst, in the tabernacle and then in the temple.
* God gave them His covenants,
* He gave them His law,
* The privilege of worship of Himself in the temple,
* He gave them promises of an everlasting inheritance.
* And now He was giving them His Son.

They already were salt,
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot." (Matthew 5:13)
You might be wondering how salt can lose its saltiness. In Jesus’ day ovens were built outside, made of stones that rested on a tile floor. In order to retain the heat in the floor, a thick layer of salt was spread on the ground, and the tile floor was laid over the salt. After a while the salt lost its ability to keep the heat in, so the tiles would be taken up, the salt removed and thrown out on the road, and a new layer of salt was laid under the tiles.

Jesus was saying, “You have been given God’s word, and were supposed to be living it out. But you’ve lost your passion for God. What use is it to have outer conformity to God’s law, when you have lost all your passion for inner righteousness? That’s like salt that has lost its saltiness.”

Remember that Jesus was teaching people to repent, the Kingdom of Heaven that they’d been waiting for was here. Now was their time to believe the gospel.

That same warning applies to the church today. God has invested much in His church:
* He has adopted every believer as His Son,
* Given us His word and His blessings,
* He has given us His indwelling Holy Spirit.
* The Church is the company of God's redeemed people, taken from every nation and tribe, every race and language.

The Church is called the "body of Christ" with Jesus as the head. Christians are connected intimately with Christ. The Holy Spirit is the unifier, drawing all the parts of the church into one single spiritual community.

The Church is a temple in which God is worshiped, Christians are the living stones that make the temple, while at the same time every Christian also serves as a holy priest offering their lives up to God. The church is called the bride of Christ, whom Jesus loves and for whom He died.

God has established The Church on the firm foundation of the apostles' teaching.

--> But what good does studying the apostle’s teaching do for us if we have no passion for God?
...No sense of spiritual need, longing for inner righteousness, experience of God’s comfort and mercy, experience of His forgiveness and cleansing?

Jesus is saying repent. If you’ve been doing churchy stuff, but have never yet discovered the blessings Jesus talks about in the beatitudes, then now is your time to believe the gospel. The Kingdom of Heaven is right here.

Theologians will sometimes refer to the invisible church and the visible church. The invisible part of the church are all those who are redeemed: those who are now in heaven along with those still living on earth.

The visible church are those here on earth who are involved in the church somehow -- maybe by membership, maybe by association. The Bible urges believers to meet regularly together with other believers, to worship and fellowship together and spur each other on to love and good deeds.
Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25)
But not everyone in the visible church is born again. Because God can read hearts, He clearly sees the invisible church, but you and I can't always tell the difference.

The church today is always going to include both the visible and the invisible, the redeemed and those who go to church but aren’t believers, moving forward together in whatever the church is doing. Every believer, therefore, every member of the invisible church, every citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, should take part in visible Christian fellowship, so that we can be recognized as belonging to God.

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