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Out of the Salt Shaker

January 22nd 2012 by Joel Schultz

Today we begin a special stewardship series entitled: Consecrated Stewards. As we begin, we are reminded from Matthew 5:13, that we are to be salt to the world. But what does that mean and how is that connected to my life of stewardship? Read or listen to find out more...

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Consecrated Stewards Week 1 – “Out of the Saltshaker” – Matthew 5:13 – January 22, 2012

I know from my own experience as a parent and a pastor that there is nothing more awesome than the moment a child is born! I have great joy when I visit new born babies at the hospital and have the honor of holding them while the family members beam with joy. How amazing it is that God allows us to be part of His miracle, His miracle of giving life.

But let me take that to another level. I think that I have no greater joy than holding that same baby in church and pouring water over his/her head in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. God also allows us to be part of sharing eternal life with people. That’s what we are going to talk about for the next few weeks – giving life to the next generation – life in Jesus that is God’s good life, now and forever.

However, it all hinges on this simple fact: Jesus expects us, to use our life, all we are and all we have, to connect people to Him. When we use our life to do that, we make a difference for all eternity. When we don’t use all that we are and all that we have to connect people to Jesus, we miss out on the greatest privilege of life.

Every year Time magazine puts out an issue that highlights the top 100 most influential people during the year. I was looking at the list and was struck by how many of the name I did not know. Perhaps that is because I do not read Time magazine! I am not sure how influential those 100 people are on my life, but you all know people that you consider to be influential. In text for our message today, Jesus says that YOU are His influential people. Every Christian is a person of influence. This is what Jesus is getting at in Matthew 5:13. “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.” (Matthew 5:13).

Jesus says the influence you can have is in the “seasoning power” that He gives you. When you use the “seasoning power” that Jesus gives, you are part of His plan, giving life to the next generation! But how does that happen? How can you use your life like seasoning in this world? Well, I think we can consider three distinct steps we can take to be salt to the world.

First, take time to notice people! Jesus was good at this. There are many examples in the gospels of how Jesus noticed people and their need. One of those times was when He noticed a short man who had climbed up in a tree to see Jesus in a crowd of people: “And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today’” (Luke 19:5).

This is not a small detail. This is huge. We all know how easy it is to come here on Sunday, see someone we know, walk over and talk to them. But in the process, you might walk by a person you don’t know – a person who may be sad, depressed, hurting, lonely, upset, or just feeling out of place – a person who may need a listening ear. But you didn’t notice. It can happen at church, at a dinner party, at a ball game, at school, at work, anywhere.

In the first chapter of his book, Just Walk Across the Room, Bill Hybels writes: “Ten thousand steps roughly – that’s the distance you travel sunrise to sunset, each and every day of your life. It adds up to about 115,000 miles in a lifetime – more than four times around this big blue planet of ours. With that said, just one question: Are you using your steps wisely? Assume the average distance across most room is about 10 steps. What if ten steps could actually impact eternity?”

The author goes on to tell a riveting story about a lunch meeting. He sat near a man with a name that was clearly Muslim. The man said, “Let’s talk after lunch.” They did and this man, who was once a Muslim, told Bill how he became a Christian. Guess how it happened? This businessman was at a business party, standing alone. But someone just walked across the room to him and introduced himself. They exchanged small talk. And eventually the man who walked across the room asked him if he would do him the courtesy of explaining his Islamic beliefs over coffee sometime. The rest is history. Months went by. The two businessmen did meet for coffee. It led to questions about each other’s faith. And then the day came when the man recognized Jesus as His Savior. And it all started when one man, at business party, NOTICED another man standing alone and just walked across the room.

You know what’s so powerful about this? Isn’t that exactly what Jesus did when He entered this world? He wrapped Himself in flesh and blood and walked across this big universe to meet Zacchaeus, to meet you and me and all the people of this world – for one reason: to save us!

Think about this: Throughout the course of your life, you’re going to give yourself to something. Everybody does. People give their lives to pleasure, things, success, popularity, hobbies – but always to something. Why not give your life to people! What I mean by that is to notice people – people who cry, people who look angry, people who look confused, people who smile and laugh but are empty inside, people who are alive but have no great understanding of why they are alive, people who need to be closely connected to Jesus but might never unless someone like you notices and walks across the room. So, the first step in being salt to the world is to notice people. But then what? What happens after you notice?

Once you begin to notice people, the second step is to take time to listen to people and to the Spirit’s prompting! So many of our apprehensions are quieted if we listen to the Holy Spirit first! This is not some far out idea. Jesus promised every believer that the Spirit will teach and guide us. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26).

Part of noticing people is to look at their eyes and listen to their voice. We can hide things, but very often our eyes and voice speak internal messages. Often we can get a sense if someone is confused, troubled, worried, upset, distracted. When I see something like that in someone’s eyes or hear it in their voice, that’s when I listen to the Spirit. I know when the Spirit gives me that nudge to ask something as simple as “Is everything OK?” There have been times I didn’t listen and didn’t ask, and I have regretted those moments.

You don’t have to be a pastor or theologically trained to do this. Just listen, and when the Spirit nudges, walk across the room and then listen. Listening is never offensive to people, not even to a stranger.

And as you listen, let the Spirit guide you. Listening may be all you do in one particular encounter but it may open their hearts for the Spirit-led witness God has in store for them at a later date. Sometimes, not all the salt needed is shaken out at once. That is the second step to being salt to the world – listen to people and the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

But, there WILL be times when the Spirit flings the door wide open. That’s the time for the third step: Take time to tell your story and His story!

Telling your story is nothing more and nothing less than telling the significant difference that Christ has made in your life. One person who loved to tell his story was Paul. In Acts 22 and 26 Paul give his hearers a detailed accounting of meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus. I would imagine that he told that story often.

This man persecuted Christians. He even watched as a man named Stephen was stoned to death for being a Christian. Yet, Jesus reached through this man’s prejudice and hatred and saved him, changed his life forever. What a story St. Paul had to tell!

We all have a story. If we know Jesus, we have a story. It doesn’t need to be dramatic. What is the Jesus experience in your life that humbles you the most and gives you the greatest sense of peace and joy? That’s your story!

I wonder how many times Zacchaeus told his story. His story probably went like this: “As a tax collector, my whole life was wrapped up in money. The grip of greed was strong. It ruined my life. I didn’t have any friends. But Jesus came to my home and set me free from my greed. He taught me to care, really care about other people, not just myself.” That’s it. That’s his story.

I have a personal story I have shared on a number of occasions. It is a rather simple story. It began on the day when I was baptized by my pastor father. On that day, God the Father took a sinful creation and made me His very own by washing my sins away and giving me the benefits of Jesus’ suffering and death. I grew up as a sinful child in a sinful family, but a family who belonged to the Lord – a family who lived under the grace and forgiveness of God – a family who worshiped together and grew in the faith together – a family who found joy in belonging to Jesus and serving Him. I never really doubted the faith planted in my life and through worship and the study of God’s Word, I have been discipled over the past 42 years into the person who stands in front of you today – still sinful, but also a redeemed child of God who loves the Lord and seeks to forgive, love and care for those around me.

You have a story. Your story is powerful, because it’s HIS story in you. Think about it. Write it down. Do it in one short paragraph. Have it tucked in your mind. You never know when the Spirit nudges you to notice someone, to listen, and then, be ready to tell your story. It is HIS STORY that has saved your life and changed your life. It’s our privilege to tell it!

Every time we gather together in worship, we are comforted by the greatest story ever told – the one that makes clear God’s love for us in Christ Jesus, His only Son, who, for our sake, was crucified, died, was buried and in three days rose again, so that we might no longer fear death or the threats in this world, but cling forever to the promise of eternal life with Him!

And the story isn’t over. Not for you. Not for me. Not for Christ’s Church. For every day the Holy Spirit is working in your heart, in my heart, and in the hearts of those for whom we are salt, to shape us and use us for God’s purposes, to build His kingdom here on earth, to make known in the hearts of all created by Him the saving power of His love in Christ Jesus.

Someone once asked this question: “If your church was removed tomorrow from this community, would anybody notice? Would it make a difference? Would you be missed?” Jesus has answered that! You would be missed! You are the salt, the seasoning of Jesus in this community and you DO make a difference as God uses you to tell His Story.

In the next few weeks you are going to be hearing this word regularly in our worship services: CONSECRATED. That’s a Bible word with a big challenge. It means literally to set your life apart from the ordinary—in other words, to use your life for God, for something extraordinary!

Consecrate your life to being “salty!” How do you do that? Notice people. Listen to the Spirit; Listen to people. And tell His story. Amen.

Comments

1 12:58 a.m. on July 13, 2016

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