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“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 by men.” Matthew 5:13
Analogies abound as to what it means to be the salt of the earth. Preservative. Healing. Ice melt. Flavor enhancer. Et al. But did you know that most of the salt in Israel came from the Dead Sea? This is important because this salt was full of impurities–other elements or minerals that mixed with or attached to the sea salt. And it was the impurities that caused the salt to lose its saltiness or salt-like qualities.
Impurities chemically changed the salt so that it couldn’t preserve food. So that it couldn’t heal wounds. So that it couldn’t melt ice [if that had been a thing in Israel, though it wasn’t]. And so that it couldn’t even make food taste better.
While valuable enough that people actually traded in salt at one time, impurities made the salt absolutely useless. No good for anything!
So it is with our faith. Pure faith in God preserves this world from the decomposition of sinfulness. It heals lives. It melts the ice of unbelieving hearts. It magnifies God in the eyes of the world, intensifying their understanding of His goodness.
But when we allow impurities–the love of self or money, worldly ideas and the like–to creep into our lives, then our faith becomes ineffective. When our faith mixes with and is essentially changed by ungodly influences, it loses the ability to keep others around us from sinful ways. It loses the ability to heal the hurting. It loses the ability to affect hearts for God. It loses the ability to give glory to God in a lost and dying world.
Impurities make our faith of no earthly effect.
How pure is your belief in God? Does the truth of His Word work in and through you to effect righteousness? Or have you allowed worldly impurities to make your faith useless?
“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.'” Matthew 2:16-18
So blinded is Herod by his pride and worldly lusts, that he lets the news of Jesus’ birth boil into rage within. With honey sweet words, he lies to the Magi, trying to mislead them, trying to dupe them into abetting his murderous scheme. And when his deception fails him, his rage boils more spuriously.
Ironic or just confirming the truth that Jesus would later speak, that anger brings the same judgment as murder [Matthew 5:21-22]. Anger is a seed sin [James 1:15], but a sin nonetheless. We are commanded not to sin in our anger because it gives the devil a foothold [Ephesians 4:26-27].
And for anyone who denies God and promotes self-as-god, anger erodes the whole heart–intellect, will and emotion. But when we hide God’s word in our heart, growing in our love for and understanding of Him, it guards our intellect, will and emotion.
Not that Christians never get angry or commit other sins. We absolutely do!
But God is a loving Father who comes along aside to mentor us and correct us when we do wrong [Hebrews 12:4-13]. His Word is a light shining on our path each day so that we don’t stumble and fall flat on our faces on our pilgrimage to truth [Romans 9:33]. His Spirit is a holy counselor who hears our hearts and knows our minds. In all things, He reminds us of who we are in Christ, that we are made in God’s image and how we can become more like Him every day [John 14:26].
When we, like Herod, reject God for the love of self, then we have to fulfill the role of god in our own lives. We have to become the most powerful in order to protect self. We have to be shrewd in order to try to outwit true wisdom. We have to be vengeful because we don’t trust God and we won’t leave vengeance in the hands of anyone but the one person we trust–our shriveled up self [Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:17-19].
In the end, God being omniscient and all wise, looked through all of human history before it happened and knew that Herod would come to the throne. Knew that he would be a paranoid, power hungry, usurping leader of God’s chosen people. Knew that Rome would be rising in power so that Herod would kowtow to promote himself.
In His wisdom, God knew that Herod would seek to kill the Messiah, His Son Jesus Christ, and that this was the exact right moment in human history to send him into the world [Jeremiah 31:15].
Do you, like Herod, struggle with anger over the things of God? Or do you, like the Magi and the shepherds, rejoice with the truth?
“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
God is love. He loved us first. He loves us most. He loves more than we could ever ask or imagine. Constantly. Faithfully. Mercifully. Full of grace, pressed down, shaken together and running over [Luke 6:38].
His love for us is holy. We are set a part as children [1 John 3:1], not the human toys purported by pagan mythologies. We are prepared as His spotless bride [Revelation 19:7-8], not exploited as harlots like in the mythological pantheons.
His love for us is sovereign and transcendent. That’s why His anger stirs when we continually and blatantly sin against one another [Matthew 18:21-35; Romans 6:1; James 2:13]. And when we sit in judgment on other people’s sins while disregarding our own [Matthew 7:2-5; Luke 6:41-42].
His love for us is righteous and good. It wills only for our eternal best. It treats us only with rightness–that which is infinitely and precisely correct according to God’s moral law. Never impatiently or unkindly. Never enviously, boastfully or arrogantly. Never dishonoring us or using us for His own gain. We do not easily trip God’s temper, and our reciprocal love toward God covers over the multitude of our sin. His love does not delight in evil. Period. But it rejoices when a sinner finds the truth, the way and the life. God’s love eternally protects as we trust in Him. His love eternally hopes we will choose to repent, though, He already knows whether or not we will. His love perseveres from the beginning to the end of human history, pursuing our hearts to return to Him–our first love, who first loved us.
In His eternal wisdom, His love will never fail us [1 Corinthians 13].
But our finite human love will fail us every time. Unless we deny our flesh and take up the cross of Christ [Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23], our sin-warped love will fixate on another thing, like money, and become the root of all evil [1 Timothy 6:10]. Or like physical and material desires, temptations that will grow into full blown death [James 1:15]. It will fixate on finite, sinful human beings and fail to meet our self-absorbed, insatiable expectations. Leaving us with the sense of being robbed and cheated rather than whole.
God’s love for us is holy–wholeness itself.
His love for us is just. It respects our freewill even when it hurts God’s heart [Deuteronomy 5:29]. He will give to each as each has chosen–the righteous to everlasting life and the unrighteous to everlasting condemnation [Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20:15 & 21:27].
Do you know the depths of the riches of God’s love for you? Do you realize that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all Creation will be able to separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus [Romans 8:38-39]?
It’s true. The only thing that can separate you from God’s love is you.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
God is sovereign. Period. There is no other authority in all Creation and no other god who created all that is. Still, people reject His existence. They reject His ordinances. They reject His Word. They reject His Son and His people. They reject His supreme authority and power and dominion in their lives.
But they cannot reject the consequences of their own sin. Everyone will die once and will stand in judgment before God whether they accepted Him or not [Hebrew 9:27]. And everyone will spend eternity somewhere–either in heaven or in hell [Matthew 25:31-46].
Moreover, everyone has the freewill–in this life–to choose their eternal destination, but the offer expires when we do. And refusing to acknowledge God before this world and live according to His Word, does not in anyway nullify the consequence of our rebellion. It’s completely futile.
Even the world considers it foolish to act without considering and heeding the consequences.
Yet many people live as if that might be the case. If I don’t look at God, then He won’t see me. If I imagine this world came from a cosmic burp, then I can live as my own god with a clear conscience and claim ignorance when I meet the real God. If I pursue inner and world peace, then I will be good enough just in case there really is a Big Guy Upstairs to contend with in the hereafter. Or how about, If I can fault God for being unloving and unjust, then He can’t hold it against me when the time comes–that wouldn’t be just!
The problem with each of these viewpoints is that they all put the human in control. We give ourselves the authority to preside over God’s authority, and it will never work. Satan already tried it, and he didn’t gain control or power, he got banished and condemned. Adam and Eve already tried it, on Satan’s say-so, and they got banished and condemned too. But the difference is this, by grace, Adam and Eve and every one of their descendants have the choice to repent of their self-usurped authority and have the opportunity, through faith, to be reinstated into the kingdom of God with full rights of God’s own children.
Is there any authority in your life that you heed more than God? Is there any portion of God’s Sovereignty that you have rejected? Have you assumed God’s throne in your own heart?
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us…God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them…We love because He first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” 1 John 4:11-12, 16b & 19-21
God took on flesh so He could lay down His physical life for us [John 1:14]–for our sake and in our place. Jesus made Himself the propitiation–the reparation–for the wrong of our sins that separated us from God [1 John 2:2]. In the infinite love of God, Jesus bridged the gap, lighting the Way, the Truth and the Life for all humankind to see [John 14:6].
As Christians, we are the light of God’s love to a lost and dying world [Matthew 5:13-16]. If we love all others, constantly willing for their good–good as defined by God–then God’s light shines through us. It brings glory and honor to God. It brings understanding, clarity about God, to believers and unbelievers alike.
So many times God takes the fall for being unloving because human beings–His Creation–are unloving. But just as Christ stood in the gap to make things right between God and man, so we as Christians should be stemming the tide of darkness in this life. We should be boldly living as disciples of Christ [John 13:35], loving others as God first loved us [1 John 4:19]. We should be lighting the path of the lost with God’s love so that they see their way to eternal life and joyfully return to their Heavenly Father.
When we don’t love with God’s perfect love, we shadow His true character in the eyes of the world. When we don’t let His infinite love flow through us–whether from pride or sin or selfishness–then the world doesn’t open their ears to hear [Romans 10:14]. When the gospel is not lived in love, its heard message is dismissed as hypocrisy .
If we decide that we just can’t get along with someone, then we are not loving with God’s love. When mistreat us and we let it keep us from loving them anyway, then we are not loving with God’s love. If we hold grudges or allow jealousy to grow into hard feelings, when we judge or gossip, then we are not loving with God’s love. Then we are not a heavenly light guiding others to Christ but a darkened signal willing their condemnation.
God saved us from death. For this reason alone we should love Him enough to love the rest of His Creation to life. Is your life a light of the good news of God’s love?
“Dear friends, let us love one another for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8
Dictionaries fail to offer a Godly definition of love. Love is more than an intense feeling of deep affection–fondness or liking–and it is nothing at all to do with physical attraction. Love is the constant, unwavering will for the good of the one loved.
God so loved the world–all the people who have ever, do now and will ever walk on the earth–that He gave His one and only Son, Jesus, to sacrifice Himself to pay the wages of all of our sins so that we could be reconciled to God and have eternal life [John 3:16; Romans 6:23; Hebrews 7:27 & 10:10].
And His love for us is constant. It never fails [1 Corinthians 13:8]. It never forsakes us [Hebrews 13:5]. It never flinches in embarrassment at what we say or do. It never looks on our outward appearance aghast or ashamed to be seen with us [1 Samuel 16:7; Hebrews 4:12]. It never prefers another [1 Corinthians 13:4-7]. It never wavers in good will for us in any way.
God’s love for us is infinitely faithful and perfect in every way. He infinitely-faithfully wills for our good [Deuteronomy 7:9].
Since God is infinitely wise and all-knowing we should joyfully and eagerly trust ourselves to His definition of goodness [Deuteronomy 23:5], rather than choosing to be our own god [Genesis 3:5] and stand in judgment on His goodness and love in our lives. When we will to define goodness and sinfulness our own way; when we will to choose ourselves alone rather than to love God and our fellow human being–even in the small selfish and white lie moments–we give sin a foothold in our hearts [Ephesians 4:27]. Sin that, when fully grown, births our own death [James 1:15].
Because, despite being made in God’s image, no matter how opposite of our Creator we have been and no matter how contrary to our Heavenly Father’s holy standard we have lived, He will always forgive. He will always be gracious and compassionate with us, slow to anger and abounding in love–faithfully willing for our ultimate, eternal good [Nehemiah 9:17].
Jesus is the branch born from the root of God’s love [Isaiah 11:1 & 10]. We were once cut off from the branch because of our sin. But when, by grace through faith, we accept God’s gift of love we are grafted back into the vine–the branch of Christ [John 15:1-17; Romans 11:11-24]. Therefore, the root of our existence is God–His love, His mercy and grace, His goodness, faithfulness, justice and mercy. All that He is flows through us when we are living in Him as a branch grafted to the vine that springs from His root.
How can you know if the graft has taken? Your life will bear the fruit of your root, and, when God is your root, you will bear much good fruit [John 15:8; Galatians 5:22-23].
What is the fruit of your spirit? Do you abound in love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control [Galatians 5:22-23]? Does God’s love flow freely through you into everyone you meet?
“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet, have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” James 2:1-4
Being made in God’s image–who is infinite in grace–we were made to show grace to our fellow man. That means that we think of others with favor, considering them with the same love and concern that we ourselves desire. That’s right, it’s the golden rule [Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31]! It also means that we do not show favoritism–partiality that gives the advantage to some while disadvantaging others.
We don’t often think of grace and justice going hand in hand, but in the person of God it always does. So in the people of God it should as well.
Mercy is also bound up in grace and justice. Dealing with others in favor means that we speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom–Jesus Christ [John 8:36]–because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful [James 2:12-13].
How we deal with others is how we ourselves can expect to be treated [Mark 4:24]. If we judge with favoritism–which is not full of grace and mercy–others will judge us with the same partiality [Matthew 7:2]. When we refuse to forgive others, God doesn’t forgive us [Matthew 6:15]. But if we act in grace, justice and mercy then God will return it to us pressed down, shaken together and running over [Luke 6:38].
It’s like the old Sunday School acronym J.O.Y. When you put Jesus first, Others second and Yourself last it fills your life with joy. But it also ensures that others will find the grace of God in your eyes, and that you will act justly and love mercy as you walk humbly with God [Micah 6:8].
God’s transcendence is also bound up in His grace and ours. When we remember that He is equally above all human beings because He is God and we are not. He is the Creator, and we are the Creation. We see levels of earthly affluence, success and beauty but none of that registers in God’s point of view. He sees our hearts in black sin and the white righteousness of Christ. Either we live by His love, grace, mercy and justice or we live for our own selfish versions of these.
And God knows our heart [1 Samuel 16:7; Acts 15:8].
Is there anyone that you treat with favoritism–either for their good or for their bad? Pray and ask God to tune your heart to His, to help you to see everyone through His eyes. To help you remember that, but by the grace of God there go you and I [1 Corinthians 15:10].