Sunday, August 03, 2014, 5:37 a.m. – the Lord Jesus put the song in mind, “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Matthew 5:13-20 (NIV). Salt and Light “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.” Salt is used both as a preservative and as seasoning for the food that we eat, to give the food flavor and/or to enhance it, or to bring out the flavor that is already there. It is also used metaphorically to signify purification. In a figurative sense, it can be translated to mean wisdom or prudence (forethought, carefulness, discretion, and good sense). If we preserve something, we maintain, uphold, keep (obey), continue in, protect (safeguard) and defend it. In scripture, the Word of God is often symbolized by food or most specifically bread. Along that line of thinking, we are taught in scripture to preserve, maintain, uphold, continue in, sustain, and to safeguard our walks with the Lord, our testimonies for him, and his word, as well as we are to keep (obey) and defend the Word of Truth (See Rev. 6:9; 14:12; Ro. 3:31; 6:17; 12:11; 15:18; 1 Co. 5:8; 7:19; 13:7; Gal. 2:5; 5:14, 25; 1 Jn. 2:3, 5; 3:22, 24; 5:3; Jude 1:21; Heb. 5:9; Ac. 5:32; Col. 1:22-23; Phil. 3:1). So, for us to be the salt of the earth would suggest that by our lives, our actions and our words we should be spreading throughout the earth the teachings and godly principles of scripture, in particular those of the prophets - with regard to these last days - and those of Jesus Christ and of the apostles. As well, we should be safeguarding, upholding and defending the truth of God’s Holy Word against all evil and opposing forces, in particular against all that would malign the word of God and would try to bring it into disrepute, or that would try to distort the truths of scripture in order to deceive and to persuade people to follow after lies. We should also be maintaining and continuing in our walks of faith with Jesus Christ, and we should not be guilty of straying from his word or our pure devotion to him. Our very lives, as well as our words, should be influencing the world around us away from lifestyles of sin, and to faith in Jesus Christ – to repentance and obedience to his commands – all in the power and working of the Spirit of God within us. If the salt loses its taste, that would suggest that we, the salt of the earth, have allowed ourselves to be contaminated with the things, sinful attitudes, humanistic thinking, and/or sinful behaviors of this world. Or, it might suggest that we have bought into the lies of Satan, and we have deviated from the truth of the gospel as taught by the apostles, and we are, instead, preaching a watered-down, feel-good, acceptable to the world, non-threatening false gospel, thus giving people a false hope of heaven. Or, we may not even be mentioning Christ at all, because we are too busy and concerned with our own lives. Scriptures teach us that, although we live in this world, we are not to be of the world. We can’t reach the world for Christ if we are one with the world. Jesus said we should be separate (unlike; different) from the world, and that we are to be set apart to him and to his service. If we are too much like the world, we are contaminated, and then we have lost our effectiveness in reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither 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. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” The salt of the earth and the light of the world are synonymous in many respects. Letting our lights shine before other human beings has a lot to do with how we live our lives, i.e. it has to do with our walks matching our talks. We should not just be preaching the gospel, but we should be living it. But, we still need to be preaching it, too, because it is the word of God which convicts human hearts, and not our own words. As well, scripture teaches us that people believe because they have heard the gospel. But how can they hear unless someone tells them? We are not to hide the gospel of our salvation or the Word of Truth from people, but we are to let it shine all over the place in our words, and also in our attitudes and in our behaviors. Why do so many Christians find it so easy to talk about everything but their Lord? Why do so many who profess Christ talk and act just like the world, to where it is hard to know that they are truly Christians? We are to be salt and light to the world, and it should be obvious to the world that we have been with Jesus. Law and Prophets “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Galatians 3:19 says this: “Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.” Jesus Christ is that promised seed of Abraham. He is the fulfilment of the law and the prophets. God’s house, his church, is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (Eph. 2:19-20). After Jesus’s death and resurrection, he appeared to his disciples. On one occasion “He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms’" (Lu. 24:44). The law and the prophets were to lead us to Jesus, but in him they are all fulfilled. Yet, Jesus is saying here that he didn’t come to abolish them, so what does that mean? We are no longer under the curse of the law, but we are under grace. Amen! We do not have to follow all the Old Testament Jewish laws and customs, especially those that are man-made, because Jesus is the fulfillment of the law. Yet, Jesus said he did not come to abolish the law. I believe he is speaking here of the Ten Commandments, which he summarized in two commandments: 1) Love God with all your heart, mind and strength, and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. But is that all? We are not saved by keeping the law, though. We are saved by grace. Not one of us could possibly keep the law perfectly. Jesus satisfied the requirements of the law for us in his death and in his resurrection. He became sin for us, and he put sin to death with him on the cross, so that through faith in him we might have Christ’s righteousness credited to our accounts and no longer be under the curse of the law. So, what does it mean when he said he did not come to abolish the law? He told his disciples that everything written about him in scripture must be fulfilled, and they are not all fulfilled yet, so that is one reason they are not abolished. Jesus’ death and resurrection also did not do away with love for God and for our fellow humans. He is love. And, we are to obey him and his commandments, because he and his word is the Law – the perfect Law that gives freedom. We don’t obey him to earn salvation, though. We obey him as part of believing faith, and only in the power and working of the Spirit within us. Obedience to Jesus, the Law fulfilled, is our heart response in faith to what he did in dying for our sins and in giving us new lives in Christ. We walk by faith and not by sight. We walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh. God’s grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled and upright lives while we wait for his return (See Tit. 2:11-14; cf. Ro. 6-8; Gal. 2:20; 2 Co. 5:15; Eph. 4:17-24 & 1 Jn. 1-5). Promised Land In the Old Testament we read about God’s promise to Abraham and to his seed, meaning Jesus Christ. Through Jesus Christ the world would be blessed with the gospel of salvation. Yet, God promised Abraham’s physical heirs that he would give them a certain stretch of land, which was their “Promised Land,” which they were to go in to possess. He delivered them out of physical slavery to the physical nation of Egypt. They rebelled against him, so they had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. After Moses died God appointed Joshua to take his people into the Promised Land. They had to cross the Jordan River, but it was too deep, so God parted the waters for them so that they could cross over to the other side. All of these Old Testament promises have their fulfillment in Jesus Christ and in his gospel of salvation. The blood the Israelites had to put on their doors so that God would pass over them when he put to death the oldest male of each household is symbolic of the blood of Jesus Christ, our perfect Lamb sacrifice for our sins, so that God will pass over us when he judges, and we will be delivered out of slavery to sin because we have applied his blood sacrifice to our lives through faith. Our “Promised Land” is heaven, not a physical place on this earth. This is our inheritance and our final resting place. Joshua was a type of Christ, who is the one who leads us into our Promised Land. God parting the waters for us so we can enter into our Promised Land was via Jesus Christ and his death for our sins. We enter into eternity in heaven via the cross of Christ, his death and his resurrection, by faith. So, the Promised Land which we, the people of God, true Israel, are bound for is not a place on this earth, but it is heaven. Jesus Christ is the promised seed of Abraham, and in him are all of these promises fulfilled. We walk by faith and not by sight, and we cross that Jordan to the other side. The Jordan River can symbolize many things to us, but to me it symbolizes our walk of faith. We have already been delivered out of slavery to sin, we have been given the hope of heaven with God, and now we follow our Lord on that path toward heaven. There are storms raging on either side of us. The world and all its evils are threatening to undo us and they are tempting us to be afraid and to not believe Jesus, and to give up and to retreat. But we maintain, uphold, continue in, and we safeguard our walks with the Lord, our testimonies for him, and his word, and we keep (obey) and defend the Word of Truth. This is how we are salt and light to the world around us. And, one day, when we die or when Jesus returns for his bride, we get to be with our Lord forever! Amen! On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand Samuel Stennett / Rigdon M. McIntosh On Jordan's stormy banks I stand, And cast a wishful eye To Canaan's fair and happy land, Where my possessions lie. O'er all those wide extended plains Shines one eternal day; There God the Son forever reigns, And scatters night away. No chilling winds or poisonous breath Can reach that healthful shore; Sickness and sorrow, pain and death, Are felt and feared no more. When I shall reach that happy place, I'll be forever blest, For I shall see my Father's face, And in his bosom rest. I am bound for the promised land, I am bound for the promised land; Oh, who will come and go with me? I am bound for the promised land.