Christ figuratively uses salt to convey truth in three statements. Find out that 1) we will all be salted with fire, either the fire of purification or the fire of destruction; 2) followers of Christ must do whatever it takes to be salty (and if our saltiness has been diluted, we have to add salt or clean out the dirt); 3) we are here to be salt to this world.
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Lord, there's no way we can ever appropriately respond with all the joy we should, knowing you did honor us above all else. We're saying here this morning that your name is more worthy to be praised, and you are above all. Here we see again the greatness of our God, that the God who is worthy to be praised would humble himself in a way that is beyond human comprehension to make us feel loved above all comparison.
We want to respond to that now by looking at your Word. We're going to do all we can to order our lives in a way that gives you glory, knowing that nothing we could ever do would make you love us, but we can do all we can to show you how much we love you. We're going to train ourselves and ask that you would transform us by your Word, that we might be conformed to the image of your Son, the one who gave you a great deal of joy in his obedience.
We want to be like him, and so we ask that Spirit which empowered him when he was on this earth to empower us, that Word which instructed his life to instruct us. We thank you, God. In fact, our hearts are filled with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. We give you thanks and ask that we learn to be subject to one another. In Christ's name, amen.
We have had a lot of fun working through one of the four gospels, one of the four books in the Bible that focuses on, specifically, the life of this person Jesus. We've been going through Mark now for some time. Turn with me back to Mark, chapter 9, which is where we were before we took a little break to do a number of different things, including celebrate the good work Christ continues to do in us and through us as a body.
We're going to just kind of reset the context because we're going to come across two verses that have three sayings that are some of the most difficult sayings in the New Testament and are rather confusing. We want to get all the context we can and figure out if we can't be instructed this morning from Mark, chapter 9.
We're going to focus on two verses, verses 49 and 50, but we're going to set the whole stage there by going back to verse 38. That's where we ended when we were together a few weeks ago. Let me remind you what Jesus is doing right here. The disciples just got through arguing about who was the greatest.
Jesus told them he was going to give himself up as a sacrifice, that he was going to be handed over, beaten, and crucified. They didn't really know how to respond to that, other than to say, "Okay, well, if he's going to be gone, one of us has to take the lead." They argued about which one of them was the greatest.
Christ then went up to the Mount of Transfiguration, where he revealed his glory to three of his disciples, specifically, only to come back off the hill where he was transformed and shown to be who he was before he was born to Mary on this earth and who he always will be. He found that the rest of his disciples were down there arguing with each other and arguing with others about why they couldn't cast out a demon that was inside a young boy.
After that, Christ responded to them and taught them that their faith was the key to their being effective: not their relationship with anything they had done in the past but their relationship with him. Then he told them again and reminded them he was going to be an individual who was going to be crucified. Again, that arguing and bickering started, and so that brought us back to a place where they then were instructed one more time by him.
The first thing they did in verse 38 is they said, "Hey, listen. By the way, we saw somebody over there casting out demons. He wasn't with us, and we told him to shut up." Jesus took them to a little story where he said, "I don't really want you to do that. If somebody is out there doing miracles in my name, you ought to be rejoicing that they're not persecuting you. Let them alone. In fact, more than letting them alone, I'm telling you that you ought to encourage them. Everybody who is out there doing my work, if somebody encourages them, that's like encouraging me."
Then he goes on to say, "Let me just tell you how important my work is. It's so important that if there's something that's keeping you from connecting with me or being faithful in walking with me or in serving me, or if there's something in your life that is preventing you from trusting me, you need to deal with that as severely as you possibly can."
He says, "If your eye is keeping you from being a servant of mine or from following after me, get rid of it because it's better to go into heaven with one eye than it is to go into hell with two." He goes through that with a foot and some other appendages, just to make it very clear that nothing can compare with the kingdom of heaven. Then he comes to these two little verses at the end of Mark, chapter 9. Let's read them together.
Mark 9, verse 49, says, "For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another." You kind of go, "Where did that come from?" What really is going on right here is Jesus is going to take three separate statements that we read as one. We try and figure out how they work together, and probably it's best to go, "They don't really fit together." The way they fit together is with a common word. The word is salt.
The reason Jesus used salt in so many of his pithy statements or in so many of his comments to folks is because talking salt to a Jew in Israel 2,000 years ago is like talking corn to a Nebraskan. It's like talking wheat to someone from Kansas. It's like talking potatoes to somebody from Idaho. It's like talking bombs to somebody in the Taliban. They know all about it.
He takes this element that was very familiar to them and says, "Let me just teach you some things by using this common thing to you, which is salt." Now salt is very prevalent in Israel. It was and is. It's still one of their leading forms of national income, largely because of the Salt Sea, which we know primarily as the Dead Sea because of where it's located.
The Dead Sea is so far below sea level that there is only way for water to get in and no way for water to go out. The surrounding region is filled with soil that's extremely salty, a lot of salt deposits and rock salt. In fact, seven miles of mountain on the south and southwest side of the Dead Sea are basically salt. When water comes down, rain comes, and rivers go through them, it pours right into the Dead Sea.
There's nowhere for that water to go, and so the only way for that water to leave is through the evaporation happening in that sometimes 125-degree region. It gets more and more and more dense with salt, nine times more dense than any ocean in the world. Pretty salty. They would have a lot of industry from this.
When we think of salt, we think of Morton's table salt. Only about 5 percent of the salt in the earth today finds its way to your french fries. The other 95 percent is used to make stuff like lye and chlorine, which is used to make paper whiter, water cleaner, petroleum cleaner. It's used to make soap. It's used to make rayon, which you wear. It's used to make paper products. Salt has a lot of different uses, and it was an extremely useful product, then and now, to the nation who had access to it.
Salt was a very common thing, and talking salt to them was talking right up their alley, like talking cattle to a Texan. He often used salt in his little pithy statements. What I want to do is just break these three out and see if we can't find some meaning from them for our lives today. You think of the context we were just in.
Jesus says, "Listen. The kingdom of God is so important that you ought to make sure you do everything you can to get rightly related to it and rightly related to me and be rightly related to those who are rightly related to it and me. Don't let your insecurities or your ego or your own agendas keep you from me or keep you being competitive with others who are for me. You be compassionate to others who are for me, not competitive with them."
He throws out this little statement. Whether he did it right here in his ministry or whether they were grouped together because of how they were remembered by the writer of this gospel when the Holy Spirit brought it to mind, we can find some context here that's helpful to us. He just got through saying, "There is a place that, if you don't rightly relate yourself to me, you're going to be, where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. You don't want anything to do with that place."
In the context of just rebuking the disciples to prepare themselves for a tough journey of faithfulness after he leaves, to prepare themselves for the cross they themselves will have to carry on the road ahead, and in reminding them and all who were with them that there is a fire of purification that will come, he throws out this first statement. Let's take a look at it. We're going to break them down one at a time.
1."For everyone will be salted with fire." Now what's that mean? Well, it's probably an allusion, first and foremost, back to the Old Testament when every sacrifice that was ever made by a Jew in relationship to their God was sprinkled with salt, was seasoned with salt, or it would be said it was "salted with salt."
If you put some meat on the altar, you salted it first. You put some grain on the altar, some cereal on the altar, you salted it first. Why is that? Partly because of what salt represented. First of all, salt in their minds was not quenched by the fire, and so it had a sense of being enduring or perpetual. Salt had a preserving characteristic.
When God made a promise to his people, he said, "This promise is everlasting. It's unconditional. There's nothing you can do to change it. As a reminder of the fact that there's nothing that can break my commitment to you, to glorify myself in you and to be gracious towards you, every time you make a sacrifice to me, I want you to sprinkle it with salt to remind you that we have a covenant of salt," which is to say, "We have a covenant that will persevere or that will be preserved through whatever behavior you as a group are a part of. I will save a remnant of this people to do what I said I will do with them."
He said, "Every sacrifice in the Old Testament will be seasoned with salt, salted with salt, sprinkled with salt." In the New Testament, Jesus is saying something else. He's saying everyone will be salted, not with salt, but now you're going to be salted with something else. That something else is fire. What could this mean? I'm going to take you a couple of places just to show you how knowing your Bible helps you with tough stuff like this.
I will, first of all, say there are dozens of ideas about what these three statements mean, so whatever you ultimately do with these three statements, you'd better make sure it finds support somewhere else in the Scripture. You never want to build a doctrine on this mysterious statement people are going to argue about. You don't want to part fellowship over what somebody does with this.
What you do want to make sure you do is that you understand, that you define, and that you articulate unclear passages like this, and inform unclear passages, with places God is clear in things he says. This is kind of an unclear mysterious statement. Let's not take this and inform clear passages with this. Let's take clear passages and inform this mysterious passage with those.
If you have your Bible, turn to Matthew 3. I'm going to show you a little section of Scripture where a guy named John the Baptist was involved. John was on the scene just before Christ was on the scene. This is what it says.
"Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.' For this is the one referred to by Isaiah [in chapter 40] …" You're going to hear Handel's "Messiah" at some time this month somewhere, and you hear this little section from Isaiah, chapter 40, in one of the sections of Handel's "Messiah." "…THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!'"
Then it describes, in verse 4, a little bit about John. It talks in verse 5 about how Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea, and all the district around that area were coming to him. "…and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, 'You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance.'"
What he's saying right there is, "Don't think for a second that your attendance at this baptism proves anything. Don't think for a second because you guys are walking out, though your lives are totally contrary to the hearts of compassion that are evidence of your relationship with God, the humility that is evident that you are rightly related to God, the love for others that is evidence that you are rightly related to God… Don't think for a second that you can show up at some prophet's party and think God is all of a sudden going to love you."
He said, "You need to make sure you bear fruit as evidence that you are rooted in repentance with God. It's not what you say." I'll make a note right here for all of us. It's not profession of belief in Jesus that makes anybody rightly related to God. It is possession of a heart that is broken and contrite. It is possession of his Spirit, which bears its fruit in its love, in its joy, in its peace, in its patience, in its kindness, in its goodness, in its gentleness, in its faithfulness, in its self-control.
If those things are not evident in an individual's life, then there is at least grave cause for concern. We're not saved because we bear fruit. We bear fruit because we're saved. What John is saying to these guys as they come out is, "Listen, you all are here and it's great you're here, but don't think for a second that your attendance proves anything, except that you're more accountable because you know you're culpable to this God who is."
You tell folks all the time, coming to church and sitting in a church, no matter what the church is like, doesn't prove you're a Christian any more than sleeping in the garage makes you a car. You're a car because of what you are, and you do what you do because of what you are, not because of where you sleep. You're a follower of Christ, not because of where you sit on Sunday morning, but because of who you are in him. You do what you do because of who you are.
If you walk, if you will, everywhere you go, it's hard to believe you're a car. If you walk and everywhere you walk there is destruction and deceit and immorality and unbroken sin and unrepentant sin, it should cause you pause to think whether you're in fact a follower of Christ. Ultimately, he's not going to phone down here and ask any of us what we think about you. He knows who are his.
Some of you might be a broken-down car, a broken-down follower of Christ, but he says, "Come to me, and we'll deal with the issues in your life with grace. I will allow you to bear evidence that you are my child." That is the divine expectation and the pattern of New Testament Scripture. John's words to the Pharisees are great words to all of us.
He says, "It's great you're here. It's wonderful that you check boxes on surveys that say you're of a certain denomination or belief, but don't think for a second that I go by what you check on boxes. I go by where your heart is. Is your heart with me?" He goes on. He says, "Don't think for a second that because you have certain lineage that's going to make God fired up about you. Just because your daddy was a believer, just because your dad was a pastor, or just because your dad was a rabbi doesn't mean anything."
He says in verse 10 something very sobering, which gets to the point of where we are. He says, "And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." The time of judgment is approaching, is what John is saying.
Then he says, "As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance [I will use water as a source of identification of your repentance, of your need for cleansing] but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
There is one who is coming who, when he baptizes you, he's not going to baptize you just with water. He's going to use the Spirit of God, and he's going to use fire. What does that mean? Let me take you back one book to your left, which is Malachi. Malachi is the last book in your Old Testament, and it's a place where there were six different burdens Malachi had that he laid out for the folks. Six different oracles, if you will.
He came to the people, and he said, "Let's just get this straight. Let's talk turkey. Let's be honest with one another. Here are some issues that are going on in the nation that says they love God. As a nation you profess that you love me, but you do not walk in such a way that makes others think you know me. You do not walk in such a way that gives me any evidence you know me."
"You and I both know what that means. You don't know me, though you say you do. I want to enable you to be this kind of individual, and you're not. You're a group of people who goes to these empty rituals, and those rituals don't appease me." He says, "I reject your festivals. I reject your sacrifices. Trouble is coming for you as a people, if you don't deal with this."
Look what he says in verse 17 of chapter 2. He says, "You have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet you say, 'How have we wearied Him?' In that you say, 'Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and He delights in them,' or, 'Where is the God of justice?'" All he is saying right here is simply, "You guys are wearing me out. You're wearing me out because you say you don't understand why you annoy me."
God is just being very honest. He's saying, "You annoy me." "Well, why do we annoy you?" He says, "You annoy me because when people do evil, you say it's good and acceptable, and because you cry out, 'Where is the God of justice? We want justice to come.' If justice came, it would come right to your doorstep."
One of the things that always amazes me about our country is "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." It's a song we love to sing. It's a patriotic song. It's a song that, in fact, is in reference to parts of Scripture where it talks about the coming day of judgment for God. "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored." It talks about how God is going to come out, and he's going to tread on injustice. He's going to tread on immorality. He's going to tread on all that is godless.
We are saying, "Glory, glory, Hallelujah! His truth is marching on." Well, he's marching to judgment. He's marching on an immoral and godless people. Now whatever else you might want to say about our country, clearly there are individuals in our country who love Christ, and who are purposeful to walk in a way that honors him, just like there were individuals in Israel during this time who wanted to walk in righteousness.
As a nation, he was saying, "When my glory comes, it's going to be a tough day for the entire nation. Individually, there are going to be some folks who are spared, but as a nation, it's going to be trouble." What God is saying is, "As a nation, you all say, 'In God we trust.' You weary me with your words. If you want the justice of God to come, whoa to you. Whoa to you who have not prepared yourself for justice by asking for mercy."
That's what he's saying to Israel. It probably rings pretty true to the land we live in today. Look at verse 1 of chapter 3. He says, "Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming," which is a reference to what we just read in Matthew, chapter 3.
There is going to be a messenger who is going to come, and he's going to come before the messenger of the covenant of grace, who is Jesus Christ. It says in verse 2, "But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap."
A refiner's fire is what takes heat and puts it up against gold and melts away the dross, or up against silver and melts away all the impurities. Fullers' soap is launders' soap, which gets away all the grime from the white garment. That's what he's going to come to do, to separate filth and to winnow the chaff from the wheat. That's what this man's role is.
"And He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi [who were the priests and religious leaders of the day] and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness." In other words, "I don't want people who are doing religious acts who are not rightly related to me. I have to deal with those individual hearts first so then I can be pleased with what they do."
Again, if anybody ever thinks works are something God was impressed by in the Old Testament system, he was never impressed by things people did. David knew this. He said, "A broken heart and a contrite spirit, that's what you get to deny. If you delighted in sacrifices, I'd give you all the bulls in my kingdom, but I know you don't want my barbeque. I know you want me. When I get right with you, then you delight yourself in my worship." It says in verse 4:
"'Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD, as in the days of old and as in former years. Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien, and do not fear Me,' says the LORD of hosts. 'For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.'"
"Because of my mercy, because I told you my covenant with you is an everlasting covenant, I will preserve some of you." Notice this. He says there's going to be a fire which will purify, and it's going to make things right. Now, verse 1 of chapter 4, and then we'll move back.
He says, "'For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff [the worthless part of a wheat harvest] ; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,' says the LORD of hosts, 'so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.'" This is the idea of coming with a purifying fire. Everybody is going to be sprinkled with this fire of purification.
Fire in the New Testament always meant one of two things. It either meant purification or destruction. Both of those ideas are right here in Malachi when Malachi is saying, "There's going to be a day when I'm going to send a messenger who will precede my ultimate Messenger. That messenger will bring the fire I spoke of in Malachi."
When Jesus says, right here, in context, "Let me just tell you something. Every individual will be seasoned with fire," or, "Every individual will be salted with fire," what is he saying? He's saying simply, "Fire is going to play a role in everybody's life. You have to figure out what kind of role fire is going to play. Is it going to be a purifying role, or is it going to be a destructive role? Will it be the role of a refiner's fire, or will it be the role of a harvester's fire that destroys the chaff?
Let me take these two ideas with you. Again, this idea, this statement, this little riddle, this enigmatic statement, "Everyone will be salted with fire," what does it mean? Look at Philippians, chapter 1. He says, " Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ; so that whether I come and see you or remain absent…" This is verse 27 of Philippians, chapter 1. "…I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents."
"Those who persecute you and bring trouble to you, this is going to be a sign of destruction for them." What is? The fact that you know Christ was right in being obedient to the point of the grave, that the world hated him and delivered him up to death, that you gladly go to that same grave, being scoffed at and hated because you follow in his steps, because you follow him to the point of death if necessary.
It is a sign of destruction to them that you are sold out and sure that Christ was right, that the tomb was empty, and that God will bless you as he has blessed Jesus. And he says it's a sign of salvation for you. "For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…" The point is this. He's saying you are individuals whose lives are being offered up as a sacrifice to God.
In Romans, chapter 12, verse 1, this is what it says: "I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God…" **You present your lives as a sacrifice."…a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship,"** which is to say it's what you do. In the New Testament, to sacrifice is not bulls and goats, it's your very lives.
That life is going to be sprinkled with the salt of fire. What's the fire, in context, that this sacrifice (your life and my life) will go through? It's a purifying fire. It's the fire of persecution and trials. God uses that fire to weed out the dross in our lives and to get us focused on what ultimately matters. Also, he uses that to separate what is and isn't part of the true church.
Whenever it gets tough to be a follower of Christ, that's when you start to really see who the followers of Christ are. There's a purification that happens in the church. Every time persecution comes to the church, two things happen: the church gets smaller and the church gets more powerful because the church gets more potent. The church becomes saltier. It becomes purer.
The folks who are just kind of following along slowly drift away. The folks who are willing to trust Christ to the point of suffering, carrying their own cross, and walking to a grave in obedience to him are powerful people who create the thirst for hope the world longs for, who preserve the culture in the way the culture should be preserved, who bring the spice to life that God wants salt to bring.
When he says everyone will be salted with fire, he's saying, "Listen, if you're a follower of mine, know there are going to be difficult times ahead." In 1 Peter, chapter 4, verse 12, he says, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you…" He says, "Expect it. Everyone will be salted with fire."
Don't be surprised when your eye tries to pull you away, your foot tries to walk you away, and you're wondering, "Is it worth it, to not follow the lust of my eyes, to follow Jesus?" It's going to feel like you're denying your flesh. In fact, you are. It's going to feel like you're suffering because you're not doing what you want to do. In fact, you are. That's part of the purification process.
He says, "Let it go. Let it go because it's worth it to follow after me. Don't be surprised it's hard. Don't be surprised you don't just have an internal war with your flesh, but you have external persecution. I'm telling you, don't be surprised as though some strange thing were happening to you. I suffered. You're my followers, you're going to suffer, and you'll be purified in the process." That's the refiner's fire.
There's another fire, and it's the fire of judgment. It's the fire that doesn't purify; it's the fire that destroys. Everyone is going to be salted with fire. If you're not salted with the fire of purification because you are gold and more precious than gold, then you will be baptized or identify with a different kind of fire and salted with it. What's that fire look like? It's the fire Jesus just alluded to when he said, "It's a place where the worm doesn't die, and the fire is not quenched." Watch how both these ideas are right here together in 2 Thessalonians, chapter 1. He says:
"We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.
This is a plain indication of God's righteous judgment so that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering." There's the refiner's fire. "For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you…" See also what he just got through saying in Mark 9 where he says, "Whoever causes even one of these little ones to stumble, it's better for a millstone to be tied around their neck."
Then he says he's going to come and "…give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire…"
Verse 8 is a very sobering verse. If we believed verse 8 were true…that everyone will be salted with fire, that if you choose to follow after Jesus Christ…it's going to feel like you're dying. Persecution will come from your flesh, it'll come from the Enemy, and it will come from the world you live in, who will mock at you and say you're taking this thing just a little bit too seriously.
Your flesh is going to always compete with you. It's going to persecute you and say, "You're killing me for not letting me indulge this way, for not letting my ego run wild, for not letting my flesh have its way," but if you don't choose that fire, there's another fire. Everyone is going to be salted. Everyone is a sacrifice, either a living and holy sacrifice where you place yourself on the altar or where Jesus puts you on the altar of sacrifices in another way. That's what you're about to read right here. It's a very sobering verse. Verse 8:
"… with His mighty angels in flaming fire dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed…"
In this one little statement, "Everyone must be salted with fire," Jesus is wrapping up a Bible full of truth. He's speaking to everyone, to those who have made a decision to follow him, who are struggling as to whether or not it's worth it, and to those who have decided it's not worth it, thinking God will never bring them to account for the decision to mock at him. Now look what he says in the next little statement. The next little statement we're going to look at is simply this:
2."Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again?" The second statement in this little riddle. Salt is good. Again, we know that in this culture he was in, salt was everything to the people. It was a source of industry. It was a source of blessing. It was what enabled them to have all the food resources they did without it rotting. It's what brought taste to the food they did have.
He says, "Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again [if it becomes too diluted] ?" Salt can't lose its saltiness. The way salt becomes unsalty is if its mingled with some other minerals. If there's too much dirt with the salt, it's not considered salty because it's more dirt than it is salt.
He says, "You can't make salt salty again. You just have to get more salt in there, or you have to get the salt out of the dirt." Look in Matthew, chapter 5. It's just one little verse, a very familiar verse. It deals with this whole little idea. He says, "You [you alone, people of God] are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men."
Just like we throw out salt when it snows or when it gets icy, back then in temple worship when the winter rains would come and the water would go over the marble courtyards, they would take salt that was diluted with too much other mineral compound, and they would throw it out in the marble courtyard so people wouldn't slip.
Jesus said, "That can't be used for all the other things you can use salt for: the salt you use in your commerce and trade, the salt that makes you a powerful nation, the salt that makes paper, the salt that purifies petroleum, the salt that purifies the water, the salt that makes your different materials that are valuable. You can't use diluted salt. The only thing that salt is good for is to just chuck down on the ground so men can stamp on it. That's not the best use of salt, for traction. There are other, better uses for salt. You make sure you stay salty, and you can be used the way I wanted to use you."
Look at Luke, chapter 14, with me. You might want to turn there. In Luke 14, he's going to give a whole series of statements that lead up to this exact same statement we find in Mark. Let me just walk you through this as a way to show you why Jesus is having them consider, "Are you sure you want to be that salt? Are you sure you want to be that mineral? It isn't easy to be somebody who purposes to be a preserver of all that is good. You're going to have to do war with what is evil to preserve what is good."
That's one of the things salt did, of course. It kept bacteria from infecting meat. All through the Old Testament and New Testament and even today, we look around and we see that a lot of us have forgotten that one of the reasons God has left us here is not to be comfortable, not to make a living, but to make a difference.
We all know the story of Lot and how he was unable to have any impact in the culture he lived in. Lot forgot God didn't just leave him there to make a comfortable living, but he left him there to make an impact on the culture. Had just 10 righteousness people been found in that city… You need to realize there were 8 people in his family. If they had any affect in that culture, God would have spared an entire generation of people.
Lot wasn't there to be the salt God created him to be. He was there to be comfortable. He didn't preserve the culture, and so that culture drifted into judgment where the refiner's fire came, and sulfur burned from heaven. The same thing is going to happen with our friends and our country and our land and our world if we don't do our job. Salt is good. It has a mitigating effect on evil, and that's what the church should do.
If you, the church, are not the salt of the earth, the earth isn't going to get salted. The problem with America is not America. It's with the salt. I am convinced of that. The problem with godlessness in the high schools is not the godless kids. It's the kids who take God's name into the high schools and are not salty and are just like everybody else.
There's no chance for that high school to be turned because there's a persevering force of godliness in those high schools, in those colleges, in those neighborhoods, at those places of industry and work, in those communities where all those churches are. Salt that doesn't do its job, sooner or later, is done away with and discarded.
In Luke 14, this is what he says. As great multitudes were going along with him, Jesus, always one to be protective of a crowd and not wanting to offend them, says, "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple." Now that would get you elected mayor, right there.
Obviously, Jesus said you should honor your mother and father and he said you should obey the law and fulfill the law, so he's not telling you to dishonor your mother and father. He's saying comparatively, "If you don't follow after me and do what it takes to honor me and follow me, then you can't be my disciple. The relationship you have with your mother and father, as important and significant as that is, it doesn't compare to the commitment you have to me."
He is God, and he presupposes the right to demand from you what God can demand from you. He says, "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple." I've mentioned before in here that when you carried the cross in Roman civilization, what you were doing is humbling yourself underneath the authority of that civil state and saying, "They are right to put me through this. I am guilty, and I carry on my back my humiliation and my subjection to their right to put me to death. Rome is right in declaring me a dead man."
Jesus says, "You bear your cross and follow me. You walk to the grave saying, 'I was right in serving God the way I did.' You serve God in the exact same way I did. You bear your cross. It may not be a literal cross, but you do whatever it is God asks you to do, or you can't be my disciple. That's what I did; that's what you should do."
He says, "For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it?" which is to say, "Listen, this is not going to be easy. Before you just sign on to be salt, you need to think through this. Do you want to be salty?
Be careful before you volunteer too soon because what you don't want to do is tell everybody all these grand changes you're going to make and then build half a stadium and have it be useless and an eyesore." This says, "If you start and don't have what it takes to finish after you laid the foundation, all who observe it will begin to ridicule you saying, 'This man who began to build it was not able to finish it.'"
Verse 31: "Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and take counsel whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand?" No. In fact, when he sees he's going to be beat, "…while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks terms of peace."
He isn't foolishly going to push ahead without thinking of the consequences and neither should you. "So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions," which is to say, "Nothing is more important than me. If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out because nothing is more important than I am."
Now watch the next verse. "Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Here's the point. You do whatever it takes to be salty because that's what salt is there for.
When you are salty, make sure you preserve the meat. You don't become one with the meat. Salt is different than the meat, but salt is also not so separate from the meat it can't affect the meat. Salt has to be, it has been wisely said, both potent and present to make a difference. We are not to be good-looking table ornaments. We're to get out of the saltshaker and into the world. When we do that, God will use us to season. He'll use us to create thirst.
There's a reason he has left you and me here. There's a reason when you go to a bar, they serve peanuts. It makes people thirsty. There's a reason when we baptize folks, we don't just hold them down and send them to glory. That is because God wants us to make a difference for him. We can't make a difference if we're salt-less people. That's why he says, "Salt is good. Be salty."
How do you get salty? You get salty by hanging out with the one who will make your life salty, by being filled with the Spirit, by being an individual who abides with him. "For apart from me, you cannot be salty." You congregate with other believers. You get in his Word, and you learn it. You spend time asking him to direct you and lead you. You pursue the disciplines that make you salty.
It's a very sobering thing. If you don't want to be that kind of salt, he just says, "You're useless to me." The only way to make it salty again is to get somebody who is not useless to come and take your place. If you're so deluded, if you're so filled with the deceitfulness of riches, the worries of the world, and the concern for many things, you will not preserve the culture. You will not create a thirst. You will not bring freshness to life. That's what I want you to do, church. He closes with this last little statement. He says:
3."Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another," which is simply to say this: The distinctiveness of being a follower of Christ is self-sacrifice, other-centeredness, Spirit-led lives. One of the greatest ways for there to be evidence you are salty people is that you get along. Guess what the next teaching of Christ is in Mark? It's on the marital relationship, and it's on the curse divorce is to saltiness.
What Jesus is going to lay out as plainly as he can is that if you don't live at peace with one another, if you're not modeling what it means to be individuals who work through the conflict which is natural in the course of life, and if you're not an individual who models self-sacrifice, others-centeredness, and being Spirit-led, there's not a chance you have in being a light to this world because this world is all about what is easy and convenient, and Jesus says, "People who love me are not about ease and convenience. They are about glorifying me and honoring me with lives that do what my life did, which is not come to be served but to serve and give themselves as a ransom for many."
I know we have some friends here this morning who don't know the God we say we've met personally. You probably just hung out with us, many of you, at Thanksgiving tables. You probably observed our lives, and probably the greatest ministry some of us can have in you right now is to look at you, repent, and ask your forgiveness because you saw us be just as selfish, just as moody, just as self-centered as folks who don't sit where we sit and profess to know who we know.
We're just as bent in finding our joy in material things or escapist pleasures as anybody else. That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with being blessed materially or in laughing and enjoying ourselves with others. Our God delights in providing for his people, but when you make that your end, when we make that our God, and when we strive to serve that source of joy in our lives, we forsake our God and we lose our saltiness.
When we say we have found joy and when we say our lives are salty but we don't go out and sprinkle on our neighbors and intentionally let the Spirit of Christ minister to those in our lives so they might see the joy, the peace, the hope, and the security we have and the newness and freshness of life that isn't conditioned upon our circumstance, we betray our calling.
That's not what salt is for. What salt is for is to preserve a culture. What salt is for is to preserve the food, so it doesn't spoil and rot and deserve to be thrown out. God wants his church to be that preserving force. What salt is there to do is create thirst.
Part of us serving the families of those who are in jail through the Angel Tree project is making them thirsty to know: "Tell me about the people of God who would so love their Lord, who says he loves me, that they would take my name, go in my name and in the name of their Savior, and give my kids, who I cannot see, gifts."
That's not just going to touch young children. It's going to give the folks who minister to these inmates an opportunity to say, "Let me tell you why they do that. They're following the selfless example of their Savior, who loves you. That sacrifice they made financially and with their time to love your children in your name is evidence God loves you." They should long for that kind of God.
I want to just show you something. When you become the kind of church, when we become the kind of people, who live that kind of life, God uses it. Folks find hope. The naïve are instructed. The blind are shown the way. The folks who have been filled with hopelessness do find hope. The folks who felt like they could never be forgiven from God find forgiveness. When we experience the fruit of being salt, it makes us go, "Ah, Lord, what a great privilege."
It is tough to stay salty, but when you use it to make the food sweeter and people say these are some of the best fries they've ever had, some of the finest steak they've ever had, or when they become thirsty for the one thing that can quench their soul's longing, which is a relationship with God, it makes it all worth it. If we don't even see it now, we're going to see it in heaven. Sometimes God gives us, as a body, a time to rejoice and to celebrate when we see what his saltiness in and through us can do in the lives of others.
Here's what I wanted you to hear today: Salt is good. He wants us to have salt in ourselves, so we can experience the joy of being used by him to bring people into a relationship with him, so we can preserve the world in a way that he will allow this world to endure yet another day, so one more can have faith in him before the fire of, not just purification but destruction, comes.
Imagine being a salty church. Imagine being a salty individual. Imagine being used by him for his glory, honor, and praise. That's his vision for you. That's his vision for this church and for all churches that follow in the way of their Savior, but it's going to take some fire of persecution to do it. We're going to have to die to ourselves, we're going to have to put up with a world that mocks, and God will use that as a system to purify us and as a way to create thirst and to honor him.
He calls us to that. He says, "Think about this before you step forward and volunteer but think about the consequences if you don't because you will be seasoned with fire." My prayer is that today you make the decision for that fire to be the fire of purification, where he is burning away the dross of godlessness in your life, as he is continually day-by-day in mine, so others might be spared the fire of destruction and so his name might be glorified now, today, and forever.
Have a great week being salt. Let's worship him with our lives as we go out and sprinkle ourselves on a world that needs preserving, who needs their thirst quenched in a Savior, and who needs to know the joy that can come in life with him. Have a great week.
The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. This volume covers Mark 9:1 through Mark 10:34 and includes the 2-message series "Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage: The Ordeal and the Ideal".