- Matthew 5:13-16– “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by menYou are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
- Matthew 10:16–“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”
Though these passages cover three sayings of Jesus highlighted that fall into this category of “What to be.” For the sake of space, time, and by the leading of the Spirit, this lesson actually only covers one in depth: you are the salt of the earth.
But before we dive into that study, I do want to remind us all that Jesus has a lot to say about who and what we are. And I believe that He speaks to us on these topics in some way more often than we are consciously aware. So before we dive into the salt identity, let’s touch just briefly on the other two identities Jesus addresses.
Read Matthew 5:14-16. What stands out to you?
What does it mean to you that Jesus has made you in this way?
What is He asking you right now?
What is He telling you?
What commitments do you need to make to Him?
What do you need to do (or not do) in order to succeed in that? Prayerfully commit these things to Him.
Read Matthew 10:16. What stands out to you?
In what ways have you been shrewd as serpents?
In what ways have you needed to be more innocent as doves?
What commitment or commitments is Jesus asking of you right now?
What things may stand in the way of succeeding in that commitment? Prayerfully commit all these things to him now.
YOU ARE THE SALT OF THE EARTH–FOUNDATION
As you begin these next portions of the “what to be” lesson, please start each time prayerfully. The enemy has a lot to spout at us about what and who we are to be. There are few things scarier to him than when we truly grasp the power available to us because the Holy Spirit dwells within us. And to learn it from the words of Jesus builds a rock solid foundation that the enemy cannot shake. The enemy will try and stand in your way. Remember, the armor of God includes a helmet of salvation that protects your head (thoughts), a breastplate to protect your hearts, a shield to extinguish the enemy’s arrows, and a sword to smite the enemy with the Word of God. Use these God-given tools. Prepare yourself for the battle over who you are, attack it by the power of God, and you will find victory on the other side that you never dreamed possible.
Read Matthew 5;13-16. What stands out to you?
Though there is much that can be studied regarding these verses, we will be focusing our attention this week on salt.
Salt–it enhances flavors, creates craving, and is plentiful. In cooking, it is added throughout the cooking process to enhance subtle flavors in layers.
Salt is not meant to stand alone. Never have you come to the dinner table to exclaim, “Yes! We’re having salt for dinner!” Now, salt is an additive, it’s a preservative. And it only accompanies, never shines on it’s own.
And the amount “needed” for a meal is as unique as the person eating it. We even have salt shakers on the table so our guests can add more if they want, according to their own preference. We don’t have sage or thyme or basil on hand for such customization–just salt and pepper.
So what does this mean for our spiritual life? What does Jesus mean when He says we are the salt of the earth? What does this seasoning of unique personal tolerance that preserves food have to do with our walk of faith?
Salt–it is a foundational chemical of the earth, it brings flavor unique to the individual, and it preserves goods. These are the concepts we will explore in our study this week. Today, let’s see the foundational properties of being the salt of the earth.
Read 1 Samuel 3:1-21. What stands out to you?
Review verses 1-10. How was Samuel described?
Samuel had a hard time discerning the call of God because he didn’t previously have God in his life. The first step to discerning God’s call is to first become familiar with Him–and fellowship with others who also known Him.
Review verses 11-15. What did Samuel do with God’s revelation?
Would you have the same reaction? Why or why not?
How might Samuel’s life have been impacted had he followed his initial reaction?
How might Eli’s life have been affected?
How could Israel been impacted?
The rest of Samuel’s life rested on what he would do next. We each have a foundation to build. We each need a slab on which to build with our unique saltiness. And just as He does with us, God did not leave Samuel alone to figure it out.
Review verses 16-17. Describe Eli’s behavior.
Based on this section of scripture, what can you tell about Eli’s priorities in life?
Which was more important to him: his comfort, Samuel’s discomfort, or the word of the Lord?
When faced with a similar situation, what do you tend to do?
We do that, don’t we? We avoid a conversation because it would make us uncomfortable. Or it would make someone else uncomfortable. Or because we fear that the Lord will tell us something we don’t want to hear.
In what areas of your life are you avoiding such conversations?
What is God asking you to do in those situations?
We must get to a place where the Word of God is more important than any other thing.
Review verses 17-18. What stands out to you?
Because Eli prized God’s word more than the comfort of anyone involved, he showed Samuel this example. And because Eli trusted God more, Samuel learned to do the same.
Read verse 19. What was the result of Samuel’s life?
We each have a decision to make. And that decision impacts more than just us. We would love to live in a world where our own disobedience or ignoring of God only impacts ourselves. However, we are social creatures in an inter-linked world. Our individual decisions impact those around us as well as the greater body–both the church body and the world.
If our foundation is built on the Word of God, if we, like Eli, see the Word of God as good regardless of whether it makes us feel uncomfortable, we not only prize God above all else, we also show others how to do the same.
We can tell Eli’s foundation based on his actions. The world can tell the same about us. If we live our lives relying on the Word of God, regardless of it’s content, the world will notice.
What is God asking you to do based on what you have learned today?
YOU ARE THE SALT OF THE EARTH–YOU ARE UNIQUE
We are the salt of the earth. Just as it is a foundation, salt is also a taste unique to each individual.
Thanksgiving brought a great illustration of this very concept. I call it the “collard greens conversation.” I made Thanksgiving dinner this year for a small group of friends. one of my guests loves collard greens. Having never made them before, I risked it. Having only eaten them once before, I didn’t really know when they were done or what “good” greens tasted like. At dinnertime, I asked for feedback. One guest said they needed salt, the other said he liked them as they were. Though input was asked of both guests, it was only one for whom I would adjust my process–the one who held this as a favorite dish. And he liked them as they were. Though i wanted both guests to be satisfied, it was only one for whom I really made them.
God is like this. He made each of us unique, to be enjoyed the way He made us to be.
Read Ephesians 3:20-21. What stands out to you?
Reviewing those two verses, whose dreams does this refer to?
God isn’t out to blow away the dreams someone else has for you. He isn’t out to form you into that faithful man or woman you keep comparing yourself to. He created you unique. Just as the amount of salt in a dish is an individual taste, the amount of you in this world is unique.
God created you in exactly the way He did for a reason. God created you to just be you. Not to try and be anything more than exactly who He created you to be. Not pushing, not stressing, just relaxing into the uniqueness He gave you.
Who has God created you to be? Gregarious? Simple? Driven? Stripped of the expectations of others, stripped of the expectation you place on yourself, who has God created you to be?
This is hard stuff. So often we use the phrase “who we are in Christ.” But here is the truth: Christ created us. We are His whether we admit it or not. He created the man down the street who kicks puppies and hates God. And though that man may not choose to be in God’s family, he is still a creation of God Himself. God made Him. Yes, we have access to more power, more foresight, more patience, more love when we live a life in Christ. Yes, we are a new creation in Christ. And yes, those old things have passed away. But note this: the old things that pass away are not the heart-callings on our life. Those things that pass away may be motivations, drives, and behaviors. But “who we are in Christ” is no different than “who we are.” Before you write me a nasty letter, let me offer an example:
I am a writer. My heart leaps when I write. All the years of learning to research, to critically analyze information, and to communicate it in a way that makes sense coalesces when I sit down and write. My thoughts crystallize and the lessons flow more quickly when I write. If I am about to teach a lesson, I do so much better if I write it out first, then teach off of an outline of notes. Writing is my heart, my very way of interacting with this world in the most true-to-my-identity state. If I did not have to pay bills, I would be writing full time. The realities of this world limit my ability to fully immerse myself in the very thing that all others things can be boiled down to in my life.
You with me so far? Here’s the hitch: I would be writing whether I was a follower of Christ or not. It was His gifting to me. When He created me, He designed me to literally vibrate when I write. It was a gift He gave with no requirement that I give it back to Him. And yes, because I chose to give it back to Him, I receive richer rewards than if I had used it for myself. Yes, the results are different–but I would have been a writer whether or not I chose to give it to Christ.
Why do I make this point? For this simple fact: we tend to so over-spiritualize everything that we miss the point. yes, the ultimate fulfillment of our identity is when we choose to use our gifts for Him. I agree whole-heartedly. The tragedy, however, is that we beat this gifted identity out of people and tell them that this “new creation” they are in Christ demands them to be something entirely different. Yes, as a new creation, we will be changed. But that doesn’t mean the gut-level, deep-seeded heart of how we are gifted is different. It may mean that the arena you practice it in is different, or the motivation behind how you do it is different, or that it needs to be honed. But please, please, PLEASE do not deny the very essence of how Christ created you.
Our identity “in Christ” speaks to the salvation of our soul, the payment of our sin, the redemption of our heart, the future in store for us as followers, and how we use our gifts.
So I ask again, who has God crated you to be? A teacher? A speaker? A soldier? A parent? A friend? A brother? A servant? Outgoing? Quiet? Intuitive? Confident?
Write it out. In your most natural state, who are you?
What stands in the way of you living this way?
What is God asking you to do?
Now, just live. Remember Ephesians 3:20-21. Stop trying to live and just live.
YOU ARE THE SALT OF THE EARTH–PRESERVATION
Salt. It is a preservative. Throw a little salt on something and it will last longer than it would have without the salt. So what is a preservative in our lives? What keeps us going longer than we thought we could or beyond what we thought we could handle?
in the life of faith, this preservative is hope. Only hope will buoy us in the rocky storms. Only hope keeps us moving forward when giving up seems only natural. Hope gives us endurance.
Read Romans 5:1-5. What stands out to you?
According to this scripture, what two things can we exult in?
What a pair. the same reaction for two totally different things. First we exult in hope. Why?
Read Romans 5:6-11. What stands out to you?
For what, according to this passage, can we praise God?
Why can we exult in tribulation? Review Romans 5:1-5. List the reasons we can exult in tribulation.
What tribulations weigh you down?
How can you exult in these tribulations?
Read Ephesians 3:14-19. What stands out?
God provides tools to help us endure. What tools are given in the Ephesians passage?
Do you deeply, truly believe that these tools can help you endure your tribulation? Confess any areas of unbelief.
God knows your heart. He knows you struggle with hope amid tribulation. And He knows what you need to get through. Be honest with Him, and that hope will buoy you in storm-tossed waves.
We will explore endurance more. For now, go to prayer, asking God to show you areas where you need to settle your heart on the hope He promises so that you can endure.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.” –Matthew 5:13, NKJV
Salt, as we have explored, is a preservative. And the preservative of life, the thing that helps us endure through our tribulations, is hope. Rather than walk drearily through the rainstorms that come, I propose we simply get drenched in them.
The storms of life will come. What is your typical reaction?
Do you run screaming? Close your eyes and pretend it’s not happening? Yell and scream at the winds and rains, insisting that they have chosen the wrong one on which to storm? Do you demand that storms not touch you? After all, you love God, you follow Christ, so therefore, the rain shouldn’t touch you, right? Wrong!
Read 2 Corinthians 4:8-9. What stands out to you?
We so often take the assurances that we are not destroyed, but we completely overlook the context in which those assurances rest. It is hard to be struck down without first being struck. It’s hard to be persecuted without being unfairly targeted. It is hard to be perplexed without being confused. Yet scripture tells us these things are part of life. So why are we shocked when they come?
The reality of hope is this: Peace is not about the absence of storm; peace is accepting the storm and still following God. Not with stoic clenched teeth, but with endurance, knowing that this is simply part of life. What helps us endure?
Read 2 Corinthians 4:7, 10. What reasons are given for our presence in this world?
We are not Teflon. We have believed, deep down, in crevices we didn’t realize existed, that if we follow exactly what God wants of us, we will have Teflon coatings. Wrong again! We are in this world, like it or lump it. You are not immune from disease, illness, weariness, anger, sloth, jealousy, and all the others.
like it or lump it, the only way out is in a coffin, because Elijah and Enoch were the only one taken without mortal death. And you’re not either of them. So what are you going to do? Sit in doldrums? Or get drenched in the rain?
Read 2 Corinthians 4:17. What stands out to you?
When the storm is raising, when the winds are swirling, stop shaking your fist at the storm. Instead, start dancing. The God of the universe loves you so much, He respects your need for the ability to endure, that He has produced a training ground in which you can practice.
Read Hebrews 12:5-6. Why does the Lord allow tough times in our lives?
Why discipline? Why does He want to train us? And why should I run around enjoying the process? Read Hebrews 12:7-8. How does God deal with us?
Welcome to the family. Dive in. When the rainstorms come, forget the umbrella, toss the rain boots, and go get drenched. Let the cleansing rain of God, the rain meant to wash away those sins in life, wash over you and soak you to the bone.
The rains will come, but do not despair. Get drenched in the love of the Father, building endurance in the heart of His children. Why?
“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison…” –2 Corinthians 4:17, NKJV
Imagine the difference we can make when we endure, when we persevere in affliction. Our ability to handle life’s situations will be so appealing that those outside the family of God will start asking questions. And then we can share with them the truth of Philippians 4:13–“I can do all things through Him who gives me strength,” NKJV.
What better way to introduce others to the Savior than by living out the very testimony of scriptures?!?
This is not a quick-fix, cure-all lesson. Learning about discipline, growing through it, and even getting to a point where you feel honored that God wants you to be better is a lifelong process. Envision the eternal glory that is to come. Now, envision the temporary glory should you endure. What is the glory to be had in the here-and-now if you speak more gently? What is the reward in the here-and-now if you slow down your schedule and invest in people? What is the reward tonight if you decide to put another before yourself? So often we short-change ourselves of the lesson because we have fallen prey to the lie that the only glory is the one to be had after we die. God didn’t ask us to live a life of doldrums here so we can enjoy heaven. He came to give us life more abundant! There are here-and-now rewards. recognize them, and these “momentary, light afflictions” will seem easier to bear in the short-term.
What is God asking you to do?