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The Essence of Our Identity July 16, 2010

Posted by theronwatson in Uncategorized.
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Matthew 5:13-16
In the Old Testament story, Jonah was called by God to go to Ninevah to preach against it. He didn’t, of course. Instead, he ran away from God. He boarded a ship headed in the opposite direction and thought he could escape God’s notice. A violent storm came up on the sea that had the sailors scared. They determined Jonah was the cause of the storm and a conversation ensued.
They said to him, “Tell us who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? Who are your people?” He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” This terrified them and they asked him, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord because he had told them.)
Jonah’s answer did not line up with his actions. He claimed to be a Hebrew and a worshipper of the one, true God. Hebrews, Israelites were God’s chosen people. They were identified by their obedience to God and the standards they followed. Israelites were different from any other people around them. The difference was in their identity.
Here in this collection of teachings called the Sermon on the Mount, we find the standards by which we as Christians are to live. Jesus began the teaching with what really separates Christians from the rest of the world. We are different. But, just how different are we really? Can anyone else tell that we are ‘Christians and that we worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land?’
Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth.” But, what does that mean? In order to fully comprehend the meaning of this passage, we must understand salt. Not the molecular structure, though that would add to our understanding, but what it is and what it is for. What identifies salt as salt? For the average person, it is the shape, texture, color, and most of all the taste. Salt is square. Unlike sugar which is multi-faceted, salt is a cube. It is different even from another substance that looks similar. You would never use salt in your coffee. Nor would you use salt on your breakfast cereal. Similarly, you wouldn’t put sugar on a steak. They have specific flavors and functions. The one most identifying features of salt is its flavor. If it loses that flavor or ability to season and cure, what is it good for? What does it become without its identifying feature? It becomes nothing. The essence of salt is its saltiness. If it loses that, it is no longer ‘salt.’ It is no longer useful. It is no longer recognizable. It is no longer identified as salt. Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth.” As a Christian, you are identified by the essence of your being. That is Christ. It is your identity.
Jesus also said, “You are the light of the world.” If light is not light, what is it? It is nothing. Light in its essence is light, the opposite of darkness. Light has a very specific purpose; it is used to illuminate the darkness. In the old days, people cooked on fires and used fire for light. The kitchen or living room fire could be used for light, but it was mostly used for cooking. The candles on the stands and tables were never used for cooking. They were only used for light. A candle in a window was a welcome beacon to a weary traveler. Even a tiny light in a huge room will pierce the darkness and chase it away. We are that light.
Our savor and our beckoning light are what separate us from the rest of the world. The rest of the world is just living and doing the best it can. But, for whom? For whose gain? For whose glory? We, as Christians, in our very essence are set apart and different from the rest of the world. We bring flavor to the world. Jesus preserves the hearts and souls of mankind for eternity. We arrange the introduction. When the world is dark, Christians bring the light of God to the dark and gloomy. The light we bring pierces the dark to reveal hope and love. Our light is Christ. He is our essence. He is our being. He is our identity. We are salt and light for the world.
So, let’s begin at the beginning. Who are you? Where do you come from? Who do you belong to?
What is your identity?

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