Have Salt In Yourselves
Key Verse 50
“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”
As Jesus’ disciples, the argument they were having with one another about who among them was the greatest was childish and inappropriate. The desire to be great is within each one of us; it’s a part of that incredible image of God he instilled within us from the beginning of time. Jesus did not discourage them from wanting to be great. But what he discouraged was wanting to be great in a wrong way— in a worldly way— the kind that comes from the sinful nature and drives a person to be selfish and self glory seeking. Jesus never said “don’t try to be great”, but he told them “here’s how you can be really great”. “Don’t push yourself to the front— Be humble enough to help others go ahead of you, instead of leaving them behind. Don’t want to be served, but you serve everyone instead. Even if no one notices you, God surely will recognize you as a great one! Go, be great that way!” Pride and a false sense of self importance blinds us to God’s ways and his standards and to what he really wants from us. But God wants us to be humble and to serve one another deeply from the heart. That’s what God wants. He wants us to be great that way!
We can imagine the shock of the disciples at hearing such things. Since when does anyone become first by trying to be the last; and since when does anyone become great by serving others? It was a revolutionary teaching for these disciples who still needed to learn so much about God’s ways and spiritual life. Jesus was counting on them to grow, after all they were going to take over his ministry!
When Jesus had taught them about what true greatness was, he gave them a demonstration of true greatness. Look at verses 36-37. He brought a child among them, and said: “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” Who would have ever imagined that welcoming a child in Jesus’ name is a sign of true great! Welcoming a child in Jesus’ name! Our Lord welcomed children because they represented the most helpless and needy of people. He is the Prince of heaven, with a kingly crown on his head and everlasting armies at his command! But he himself welcomed those who were helpless and needy and served their needs with love and life. Now that is great! How great are those who do the same. We should give thanks to God for our young shepherds here. Joshua Perez is great because he welcomes David and serves him with the words of God. Bamidele is great because he welcomes Dany and serves him with prayer. Ike is great because he welcomes the homeless people and feeds them whenever he can. Greatness does not depend on a man’s status in life or in his achievements, nor in the salary he makes nor in his human abilities or skills. True greatness is to know the heart of the Lord— what he wants— and to indulge it especially when it (brings) proffers you no human glory.
You and I are that child who was once welcomed in Jesus’ name. When we could not help our selves, someone helped us in Jesus’ name. When we could not save ourselves someone led us to Jesus in Jesus’ name. A Disciple of Jesus shouldn’t be consumed with himself and his or her own self interests. You should be willing to help those who need your help— especially to serve them with the word of God— with prayer— with spiritual counsel— with your time— your possessions! You should be willing to share your life and offer it in humble service. We have been called to a wonderful ministry we call the 1.2.1 ministry. It’s personal and requires much sacrifice. It brings you no glory. But it indulges the heart of the Lord. Be great then, and mentor someone through 1.2.1 with the Love of God.
When we look at the passage here today (verses 38-50), they both have something to do with the concept of “influence”. “Salt” is “influence”. One of the most important aspects in your life is your influence. And your influence has nothing to do with whether you are rich or poor, smart or not, skillful or not so skillful. Regardless of your situation or station in life, you will bear influence one way or another, whether in a small way or a big way that might even change another person’s life. And what determines your influence rests largely on how you think and how you behave— what you say and what you do— your words and actions— all these determine your influence. You and I surely will influence others, but how is the question. For example, Jesus says in Matthew 12:36: “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” Why is that? Perhaps because by their words, they influence others— their children, their friends, the neighbor, the stranger. And what words they speak and what actions they take rest on what’s in their hearts— What they believe— what they do not believe. And they will act upon what they believe or don’t believe, and that will influence their surroundings. Your and my “character” is eventually molded by what’s in your heart— what you believe or accept and what you don’t accept— which determines your sphere of influence in life.
A man whose heart might have been shaped by sorrow or lust or desire or past grievances and bitter complaints— well, his heart is empty of all good things, and what he says and does— his character shaped by such things— will influence others one way or another. Subtle as it may be, his children, his friends, the stranger who sells him groceries are all somehow influenced by his dark and empty heart. A woman whose heart is shaped by her steadfast faith and her love and her sense of forgiveness for others, her sacrifices and her self restraint— by the spiritual virtues in life— well, her heart is full of good things. And what she says and does— the character which was forged by such things— will influence others. Her children are influenced, her friends, even the stranger on the street is blessed by her influence.
What I am saying is we cannot ignore our influence. We can say that one of the most important factors in our Christian’s life is “influence”. So the Lord Jesus found it necessary to teach his disciples the importance of “influence”. Their influence— one way or another— will depend on how they view sin. In other words, if they do not take the influence of sin seriously— catch it before it festers in their own heart— their influence is going to be dire. But if they take sin seriously, their influence can shape the lives of others around them, and the world they live in.
The first thing he taught them is “Whoever is not against us is for us.” Read verse 38. “Teacher,” said John, ‘we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.’” No one knows whether the man whom John was talking about. But there are several things about him which we may be certain of. For example, he believed in Jesus. He held Jesus’ name in honor. H believed that Jesus’ name was above all other names in heaven and on earth. He must have been a man of compassion because he felt compelled to help those who are being troubled by demons. We can that he was imitating Jesus’ ministry to help the helpless. In order to do that, he must have sacrificed many things in order to devote himself to serving those in need. We do not know who he is, or why he did what he did. But there is no doubt that what he was doing wasn’t evil. Actually, it was Good! He was not one of Jesus’ disciples. He wasn’t familiar with the intimate teachings of our Lord. But he was certainly a precious soul with potential— a great potential— to grow as a disciple of Jesus.
Why then did John and the others feel as if they needed to stop him. They said its because “he’s not one of us.” Who gave them the authority to determine who should or should not serve Jesus— whether it was in casting out demons or in preaching the gospel? But they felt privileged because Jesus personally called them! They thought they were better and more precious than everyone else. Jesus’ surely privileged them! But that privilege or grace should have made them humble men— actually the most humble of men. Jesus’ privilege or grace to them should have made them look at everyone else as next in line to receive Jesus’ grace. But, they were acting as if they were the only ones worthy to serve Jesus and his gospel. When they saw this man casting out a demon from a suffering person, they should have praised God for the man’s faith. They should have been glad that Jesus’ teaching and influence has already begun to take root in people’s hearts. Then they should have welcomed the man as one of them. If he were young in faith, they should have encouraged him and guided him to Jesus, in whose name he was serving God’s purpose. But when they saw him casting out demons, they criticized him. They stopped him. Then they boasted to Jesus that they had stopped someone from doing the work of God in Jesus’ name!
And they waited to be patted on the back for what they did. What did Jesus say to them? Read verses 39-41. “’Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.’” What they did wasn’t right. They had not recognized the hand of God working through another person. They had no looked at the man with eyes of faith, but with their own shortsighted human eyes; and they had condemned him. And they had condemned his work. What a terrible influence they had been on this man and on all who witnessed this event. They should have been a good influence on the man! What does that mean? It means they should have encouraged his faith to grow; they should have drawn him nearer to Jesus. But they were a bad influence on the man. What does that mean? They planted doubt in his heart and caused him to stumble in his faith. They were following Jesus and the good Christian teaching. They should shepherd this precious man. But unfortunately they were like wolves pouncing on the prey. Bad influence! Bad influence is not only reserved to those who are not in Christ. It is rather worse with those who are in Christ— in me, in you! Bad influence is a critical mind. Bad influence is a proud heart. Bad influence are eyes that are too quick to find fault and to judge what they do not understand. Bad influence is that part of us which is still not subject to the gospel of grace. It is that part of us that causes another person to stumble because “he is not like us”. Bad influence is to be so blinded by God’s personal grace in my life that I cannot see the grace of God in another. But good influence! Good influence is when I humble myself and serve another because he or she belongs to Christ. I can do that, when I can see that special and wondrous grace of God in another’s life.
The second thing Jesus taught them was : “cut it off”. After Jesus had taught his disciples the seriousness of “influence”, he began to teach them about the seriousness of “sin”, and “of causing others to sin”. Read verse 42. “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.” Surely “one of these little ones who believe in me” was the man whom the disciples had stopped. It was a terrible thing to disparage his growing faith. In their pride, they saw him as an impostor or a pretender. They may have seen him as a competitor for Jesus’ circle of disciples. But to Jesus, he was neither! To the Lord, he was a little one whose faith had just begun to blossom. It did not matter whether he was successful at casting demons out or not. It didn’t matter whether he was impressive or not. To the Lord he was “a little one”. What to be done with “a little one”? Don’t despise him. Don’t compete with him. Encourage him. Lead him by the hand until he takes Jesus’ hand. Of course, they never intentionally wanted to harm the man’s faith. But because of their pride, they wounded his faith. They hindered him from doing God’s work. Jesus never intended his disciples to be punished with of a millstone around their necks. He simply needed them to see how serious is “influence”— bad influence. He wanted them to be mindful of their influence on others. To grow in good influence in all things in life. If I identify as a follower of Jesus, then my bad influence is not a trivial thing. It’s not something I should ignore. It is a sin— a grievous sin I must deal with in the grace and mercy of my Lord! I must pray that my influence brings glory to God.
Jesus spoke plainly to his disciples about the seriousness of sin, especially the sin of bad influence. And his regard for dealing with it was no less serious. Read verses 43-50. Jesus regards the sin of bad influence so seriously that he gave his disciples a visual image of how they must deal with it in their personal lives. Jesus says to “cut it off”. Read verse 50. “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” This is the salt of the gospel and of Jesus redeeming grace in our lives. That is the only thing that can work to make us salty and of good influence in this world. Jesus wants us to deal with the sis with seriousness. He wants us to be salty. Have salt in yourselves, he tells us. Be of good influence. Let the gospel mold you until you share in building up the kingdom of God. Have salt in yourselves. Blessings on you.