Greetings from Branch Church
Gratitude for our partnership; we have so benefited from Renovation’s support, coaching, encouragement, and example. It’s meaningful to be a part of the church planting movement together.
Brief update: Last time I was here was July, we’d already started on Wednesday nights. Homes Sunday.
We switched to Sunday, and are growing.
The majority of our church is in Branch Homes (similar model to house groups),
we’ve celebrated 2 dozen baptisms
People are using their gifts in ways they never have before and are coming alive (my favorite)
Pray for us as we pray for you!
Intro to Message
At Branch, our focus for the last few months has been Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. I’d like to share a message from this series in hopes to encourage you as you follow Jesus. It’s a timely message right now I believe for us all as followers of Christ, and for you as a church as we prepare for Easter; to worship Jesus, and to live on mission inviting others to know him.
As it relates to the Sermon on the Mount, one of the main impressions I’ve had on my own heart in this lengthy message series we’ve experienced as a church is not to rush through these words Jesus gave, rather, to steep ourselves in what Jesus has to say in these 3 chapters of Matthew. Jesus’ teaching here is not easy teaching. It has weight to it. And, Jesus’ word will demand something of you. But it’s essential teaching to those who follow Jesus or seek to do so – and will lead to life and transformation.
Sermon on the Mount Background Page 659, and stay there this AM
Matthew 5:1-2 - Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, And He began to teach them. Few things to draw out for context…
A great multitude was following Jesus. Those who were seeing his miracles, and hearing his teachings were curious – Jesus makes people curious! He went up the mountainside and sat down – sitting down was a key signifier to a rabbi about to drop some knowledge.
Then, his disciples came to him. This is not a teaching designed to captivate the masses in order to win them over to faith, that is the secondary effect. This is a message for the follower of Jesus. Yet the words Jesus says here are so life-giving that as those ‘who have ears to hear’ it do so, his listeners then and now will know that there is life in this teaching.
And he began to teach them. In other translations, it says, “He opened his mouth.” The phrase, “Opened his mouth” is not just a roundabout way of communicating, “He said.” This is a preface for a most weighty teaching. In Greek, it is used of a solemn, grave, and dignified utterance. It is used when people really open up their hearts and fully pour out their minds. Bottom line, this is a major moment in Jesus’ ministry and with this phrase those listening would have known that what was about to be communicated would be of utmost importance to listen to.
This is the greatest sermon given, by the most brilliant person to walk the earth. Jesus – son of God and Savior of the world. Would you approach it this way? Challenge: Listen to his word specifically this morning, but maybe even today read through the whole of 5-7. Seek to live it out. For such a time as this!
This past fall, I read the autobiography of Deitrich Bonhoeffer – German theologian/pastor in WW2 – eventually would be executed for his faith. Incredible read. Really long book. Took me a while. But I found interesting take aways from Bonhoeffer’s challenge that I believe speak to any age and reality Christians face in culture, but especially true for some of the challenges and darkness that we face right now.
“The restoration of the church must surely depend on a new kind of monasticism, which has nothing in common with the old but a life of uncompromising discipleship, following Christ according to the Sermon on the Mount. I believe the time has come to gather people together to do this.”
We must radically enter into this sermon to dissect it. To hear Jesus words, understand what they meant in that context, and apply them and live in them powerfully, boldly, without compromise.
13“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
“Salt.. & Light…” Salt and light are very distinctive, and both have a strong influence on their surroundings.
In using these metaphors, Jesus declares first our identity, and then gives a command.
Message: You have been declared salt and light by Jesus. Don’t lose your saltiness and let your light shine!
First Identity Declaration: You are the salt of the earth. What a powerful thing to be called by Jesus. You are the salt of the earth. How many of you like salt? Or salty things. Do you prefer sweet things, or salty things? I like both. A real good night for me includes chips, salsa, and then ice cream.
Important: What’s the purpose of salt the way that Jesus describes it?
Today: We use salt for seasoning, to improve the taste of a food that we’re about to eat.
In Jesus’ time: The purpose of salt in the ancient world was primarily about preserving something. To keep food or other goods from becoming spoiled, or corrupt.
Salt was really important! In Roman culture, sometimes Rome paid their soldiers with salt. That’s where the phrase, “He wasn’t worth his salt,” comes from. If a soldier wasn’t pulling their duty, he wasn’t worth his salt. Jesus is saying that you are important as a seasoning and preservation agent!
First Command: Don’t lose your saltiness. If we’re listening, we’re hearing Jesus be a little salty about staying salty. Jesus doesn’t necessarily come out and say this command, it’s just more inferred based on the uselessness of non-salty-salt he describes: “If salt loses it’s saltiness, how can it be made salty again.” Essentially what Jesus is saying, is that salt that has lost it’s saltiness is.. worthless. Heed Jesus’ warning here – to be trampled underfoot is a figurative expression of exclusion from the Kingdom of God.
How does salt lose its saltiness? I did more salt research than I care to. One of the ways that salt loses it’s saltiness is if there is a lot of humidity – dilution. If you dilute salt by adding water, it won’t taste as strong, and after it’s dry it will just leave a powdery residue.
If you dilute faith… If you water down the Gospel… The saltiness that we carry will begin to wain to a degree that we’ll lose our saltiness.
But another way that salt can lose it’s saltiness is in the presence of impurity. Makes sense. According to a few food sites I researched, salt (NaCl) loses it’s flavor due to the presence of other compounds, like boron, magnesium, bromide or even gypsum. I don’t even know what those are.
But I do know about the impurtities that will cause us to lose our saltiness in faith.
Notice I said unrepentant. We all sin. We all fail God – and our sin separates us from Him. But when we receive Jesus and turn from our sin he makes us new and we are the salt of the earth. But if we have sin that we don’t bring out into the light, something happens:
1 John 1:9-10 – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
Sin, unconfessed & unrepented dulls our spiritual senses and impact that the Holy Spirit wants to make through us. Story of our family practice of confession from last week.
We live in an over saturation era of information. And it’s not all going to lead you to Jesus-y saltiness. A lot of it is going to lead you astray. A lot of it sounds good to our ears. For followers of Jesus and for the church it’s nothing new:
2 Timothy 4:3-4 – For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
We may hear things like: “There are many ways to God, Jesus is just one of them.” “God didn’t really say ______” If there is a powerful strategy for followers of Jesus to lose their saltiness, it’s to introduce another property that would lead them astray. False doctrine has always been an issue for the church.
So what do we do to retain our saltiness?
Remove our impurities. We can’t remove the impurity on our own. We need a savior to do that. Jesus comes to forgive our sins. Be aware. Ask God – is there anything in me that I’ve not examined that will lead me astray? Confess sin, and be purified to be salty again.
Soak in Truth. If there’s anything that will lead us to a Christ like saltiness, it’s the word of God. For Renovation: take a Bible with you. Do you as a church have a Bible guide for people? Possible Story: Simple example: A couple of years ago, we bought an old pickup truck. It’s come in soooo handy for church planting. It’s not uncommon for the bed of the truck to be filled with church gear, or our church’s trailer to be hitched up to it. Now, about my truck… it smells… Like an old truck… Like a truck, that prior to my buying it… Was used like a truck. I noticed that when I arrive at my friends homes who own dogs, the dogs are always interested in smelling this truck. I have no idea what was in there! So to make this truck cab tolerable, I needed an air freshner solution. I was looking for something non toxic. Not a commercial by the way, just an example; It’s a piece of wood, and a blend of oils. You put it in a Ziploc baggie, drop in the oils, and leave it overnight. Pull it back out – and boom! Great smell. Not too much. The point is, this air freshner emenates what it has been soaked in. Same is true in our faith: we eminate, we give off what we’re soaked in. Are you soaked in God’s truth? Or are you soaked in the lies of the world? Maybe a little bit of both?
Engage! in your surroundings with your Jesus saltiness. Simple concept – salt unused isn’t all that valuable unless it’s used. As the salt of the earth, you are called to be on the earth.
It’s a saltiness that preserves and points to Jesus. Who or what in your life could use your saltiness to be preserved for Christ?
Careful not to burn. Courtnay’s Example, or My Florida Jet Ski Example As salt, we’re not called by Jesus to burn, we’re called to preserve.
Second Identity Declaration: You are the light of the world…
14“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
What a stunning declaration. Who would have such authority to deem another as the light of the world? Only the light of the world himself:
John 8:12 - Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” You are not the light itself. Jesus is the light of the world. You reflect him into this dark world.
Command: Don’t hide it – Let your Light shine. How can you read this scripture passage and not think about the children’s song that many learn in church: This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine… Hide it under a bushel? No! A little background for our understanding:
The houses in ancient Israel were very dark, with typically only 1 small window. The lamp was an oil filled boat looking object with the wick floating in it. It wasn’t easy to restart a lamp in the days before matches existed. When people would need to leave the house they would put it under a bushel/basket/bowl for safety. But, then room goes dark again.
As I think about this passage of scripture, it’s a bit of an absurd example, but I want you to imagine with me that you’re having people over to your house in the evening. Especially right now when it’s dark out. You make a decision that you’re embarrassed about the appearance of your lights. They give off bad lighting. The lamps you have are not pretty enough in your estimation. You’d rather just leave them off than actually turn them on to give light to the house. Would that actually work? Absolutely not. Your guests would have a very uncomfortable visit with you. Probably not come back.
Yet I’m guessing for some – it’s far to easy to we shrink back from letting the light of Christ shine through us. We hide our light. Why? We get ashamed. We are nervous about the response. We would rather not speak up in a room of people in which our worldview is not a popular opinion. If you struggle with shrinking back, or ‘hiding your light’ – why? What is it for you? Intimidation? Fear? Needing/wanting to be liked? No, it’s not hidden, it’s put on a it’s stand – and it gives light to everyone in the house.
2 Timothy 1:6-7 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
Rather than shrink back, give into intimidation, stay quiet – we’re called to put our faith on a lampstand. Not in a proud, chest puffing kind of way, either. Faith is not a quiet, keep it to yourself thing. It’s meant to be lived, shared, and proclaimed. Your internal faith survives on being out in the open, and others are waiting for you to be. William Barclay, in his Matthew commentary quotes an unattributed writer with a powerful word: “There can be no such thing as secret discipleship. Either the secret destroys the discipleship or the discipleship destroys the secret.”
Let your light shine. I mean, we learn this as kids but oh, how often we need to be reminded. Be bold to let the light shine. Let your light shine before ‘man’/others/people. For the result that… they may think you’re great!? NO! They may see your good works, and as a result, give praise to your Father in Heaven.
Jesus did. Today we recognize that it is Palm Sunday. You see in the Gospels that Jesus was doing some bob & weave moves as it related to his identity. Because he was precise with his timing. He knew when he declared it for the world to see that the clock would begin ticking.
Jesus knew that it was time. So on Palm Sunday (as we know it now), Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Hosanna to the King! The crowds shouted. Palm branches and cloaks beneath him to pay reverence to the king. From that moment, it has been time. It’s time. To step forward to maintain our saltiness and let our light shine.
Jesus said, you are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Not the light within the church to be held back within these walls. No, the light of the world. To give light in the darkness and point to Jesus.
Closing We’re exiles and foreigners in a strange land. We are not citizens of this world: community, city, country, world. We are citizens of heaven. We must engage, being salt and light is God’s will for His people. This will always be a dark world until Jesus comes back. Until then, he’s given us a responsibility:
Engage. Don’t shrink back. Salt and sunlight express the same functions – to bless others and point them to the Lord. Invite people in your life who may not know Jesus to come to church this coming weekend.
Be salty. Preserve your surroundings. What is it in your life need to be preserved for Jesus? People? Neighborhood? Workplace?
Shine your light. Shone light to? What dark corner is in your path that God is calling you to reflect the light of Jesus into. Don’t hide Jesus’ light and reflection.
Copyright: Ben Pierce
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.