Find Both Your Identity and Purpose in Christ!
O Lord God, our dear Father in heaven, be with us this day and bless our worship. Move us to repent of our sins, to listen attentively to Your Word, to sing with joy Your praises, and to lay before You our heart-felt petitions. Remove from our hearts all evil thoughts, from our mouths all unkind words, and from our lives all loveless actions, so that we might always glorify You as we seek to follow our Savior Jesus in whose name we pray. Amen.
Faith trusts the promises of God, even when those promises appear to contradict reason. God’s promise that those Israelites bitten by poisonous snakes would be saved, if they would look at a snake Moses made of brass and placed on a pole, seemed to contradict all reason, but those who in faith looked were blessed with healing!
Peter and John did not have any money to give the lame man begging near the temple gate, but they gave him something even better–the healing of his limbs in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Beyond that physical blessing, however, that former lame man heard the precious truths of God’s gospel word as Peter and John went on to preach in the temple.
Text: 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 men. You 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.
In Christ Jesus, who informs our person and instill our purpose, dear fellow redeemed:
There is a time in the lives of many young people, when we say they are “finding themselves.” At those times young people often seem to lack direction—they seem to question exactly who they are? During their course of discovery, it is not uncommon unfortunately for them to become involved in unwise and at times dangerous behavior. There is a time in the lives of many older people especially should their health deteriorate, when they begin to question their continued purpose in life—“Why am I still here? Why doesn’t God just take me to heaven?”
Failing to understand clearly who you are, however, does not end when you turn twenty-five, and questioning why you are here is not limited to those over seventy-five. Satan, who is especially good at throwing dust up into the air to cloud our vision and to cause the proverbial “speck” to enter our eyes (cf. Matthew 7:3), does not want us to figure out who God has made us to be or the purpose for which He has placed us here on this earth. As we go through our lives Satan will attempt to lead us to believe that what we do is actually who we are, and in this way distort our sense of identity. For instance, it is very easy for a man to say, “I’m a contractor…or a businessman…or a teacher,” when referring to his identity. Yet, that is not true. In reality you are above all by faith and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit a child of God, who has been led to use his talents in the field of construction, or business, or teaching. In the same way Satan will attempt to confuse our sense of purpose. He will attempt to lead us to believe that our purpose in life is tied to solely to our decisions and the use of our possessions, rather than God’s intentions and determinations. For instance, it is so very easy to fall into this trap of Satan—I do what I must, to have what I want, in order to live as I please. But such an approach to life ignores God’s will for our lives, and so deprives us of a true understanding of God’s purpose for our lives.
My dear friends, I would encourage you this morning, as you strive to understand who you are and why you are here FIND BOTH YOUR IDENTITY AND PURPOSE IN CHRIST! In Christ, you arethe salt of the earth! In Christ you are the light of the world!
As Christians our personal identities are tied directly to Jesus Christ! The apostle Paul says, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29). Jesus, in turn, describes your identity by saying to each of you, “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 men.” Salt is such a simple, common thing isn’t it? You can buy it at the grocery store in big boxes at a reasonable price. We use it to give flavor to food and at times, much more so in the past, to preserve food from spoiling. In what sense are you and I to be “the salt of the world”?
First of all, even as salt is a seasoning and its presence or absence is noticeable to our palates—“oh, this soup needs a little salt…ah, that’s much better,” so also our presence or absence as Christians should be noticed by the world around us. The world should know we are there. Our attitudes, our words, and our actions as believers will be different, for they are guided not by the thinking of the world, but by the directions of our Savior. Jesus tells us, “As I have loved you…you also love one another” (John 13:34b). Through His apostle Paul He instructs us, “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others” (1 Corinthians 10:24 NIV). When we strive to do this, we will be noticed…just like salt in soup!
Do you make a difference in your place of employment, in your neighborhood, within your family? Can people tell by your words and actions that you are a Christian? As you think about those questions, however, do not limit yourself to thinking about just the level of your personal morality, for even unbelievers and heathens can be personally moral. Your key component as spiritual salt is not after all morality, but an understanding, an acceptance, and the joy of knowing that God has forgiven your sins for Jesus’ sake, which in turn moves you to moral living. God’s forgiveness makes you right with Him. God’s forgiveness assures you of His favor and of being a member of His family. God’s forgiveness will, therefore, move you to want to love and forgive others, even as you have been forgiven—just as the apostle Paul encourages you, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesus 4:32). When you and I view others with genuine love and forgiveness and proclaim with joy the forgiving love of Jesus, then we will be true salt on this earth.
On Thursday evening during the CLC Convention this past week, the delegate from Albuquerque, New Mexico—Robin Vogsland spoke to a group of us about his congregation. Holy Spirit Lutheran Church consists of five people at the present time—Robin himself and four others. The four others are individuals whom the world might well characterize as down and out. Robin suggested that at first they were leery of him, but over the years they have developed a deep trust in him as he has shared with them God’s truths found in Ministry by Mail sermons and as he has helped them address their needs. As Robin tried to summarize their relationship as fellow believers in Christ, he stated, “I love them, and they love me.” Robin is being a salt of the earth in New Mexico!
Now, Jesus speaks of the salt losing its “flavor” and being “good for nothing but to be thrown out.” To what is he referring? If you or I claim to be a Christian, but no one can tell us apart from the other people in this world, then something is wrong. If you or I can curse with the worst of them; if we can party with the best of them; if we ignore God’s institution of marriage and simply “shack up” with whomever we wish; if we are bitter, unkind, and unforgiving as many people in the world are—then we have lost our “flavor!” Then we are no better than tasteless salt, which can simply be dumped out on the ground and walked upon!
Let us not forget who we are by faith and the calling Jesus has given us! We are privileged to be the salt of the earth—designated so by Jesus! Let us pray that we might have an effect upon the world around us, leading them to be drawn to Jesus. Yes, by our every word and action let us cry out, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!” (Psalm 34:8) Remember that as few as ten “salty” believers would have been enough to preserve the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah from destruction (cf. Genesis 18:32). Your life and your prayers do make a difference here on earth and may well make an eternal difference in the lives of those who taste your salt!
Yes, FIND BOTH YOUR IDENTITY AND YOUR PURPOSE IN CHRIST, for in Christ you are, secondly, the light of the world! Jesus says, “You 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.”
Is it not interesting and just a bit surprising that Jesus, who claimed Himself to be “the Light of the world” (cf. John 8:12), calls you and me “the light of the world”? Jesus, of course, is the Son of God and the world’s Savior. Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through” Him (cf. John 14:6). Therefore He is a light in a very different sense than are we, for He is the very way of salvation. Yet, as we reflect the light and love of Jesus—as we proclaim the good news of God’s forgiveness and the glorious hope found in Jesus’ redemption we provide light in the midst of a very dark world.
This past Friday during the supper hour the Lord came to take Dolly Kleist home to heaven. Last Sunday evening before departing for the synod convention, I was able to remind her of the heavenly mansions Jesus was preparing and that lay ahead for her (cf. John 14). Pastor Redlin brought her the comfort of the gospel upon two occasions during the week. A few hours before Dolly’s death, I was privileged to share with her a final meditation on the fact that Jesus was her Good Shepherd and she was in His hands—hands that would give her everlasting life (cf. John 10). These truths, which speak so powerfully to us in our moments of need and which deliver our souls from sorrow to joy, are the essence of the light we are to be and the light we are to provide in the midst of the darkness of this world. The world, which is lost in its sin, does not have the light and so when faced with death is found wanting. The world approaches death is a sense of hopelessness and fear, or a sense of false bravado which will vanish as soon as such a lost soul stands before His Maker!
My dear friends, Jesus has declared us to be “the light of the world!” The Spirit of God has made that possible, for He has worked faith in our hearts. Let us not put our lights “under a basket!” How might we do that? We do that when the opportunities to testify to our faith arise, and we remain silent. Think of Peter on Maundy Thursday night refusing to confess his Lord or admit that he even knew Him (cf. Matthew 26). We do that when opportunities to help others present themselves, and then we walk away. Think of the priest and the Levite in Jesus’ parable of “The Good Samaritan” (cf. Luke 17). We do that when the Lord has given us talents and abilities, which can bring great blessing to the kingdom work of our Lord, but then we choose not to use them assuming that someone else will do it. How often do we not all have to confess, “Yes, I am guilty of putting my light under a basket Lord”? That is why Jesus taught us to ask God each day “forgive us our trespasses” (cf. Matthew 6:12) and Luther would later say that Jesus “willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance” (cf. 95 Theses, No. 1). We do fail to let our lights shine. Jesus knows that! We are and never will be perfect this side of heaven. Jesus knows that, too! But Jesus, nonetheless, urges us to let our lights shine for everyone in our homes, everyone in our schools, everyone in our workplaces, everyone in our communities, and everyone with whom we ever have contact in this world. Why? Jesus answers and in so answering provide our ultimate purpose here in this life—“so that men might see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven!”
You and I find our identities in Jesus Christ—we are by faith, as Peter declares, “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people.” But Peter does not just speak to our identity. Rather he addresses our purpose, for he ties your purpose and mine to Jesus Christ, for we are God’s special people so that we “may proclaim the praises of Him who called you (us) out of darkness into His marvelous light” (cf. 1 Peter 2:9). (cf. 1 Peter 2:9a). Dear friends, FIND BOTH YOUR IDENTIDY AND PURPOSE IN JESUS CHRIST! Then all will be well for you now and forever! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting