Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany: “The Law Is Profitable”
Isaiah 58: 1 – 9
1 Corinthians 2: 12-16
Matthew 5: 13-20
How many of you here have social media accounts where you transmit information? What do you call someone who is able to influence a lot of people concerning a certain subject? An influencer! An influencer is someone who can propagate an idea or a product to sell. We have a lot of influencers, but for the kingdom of God, as shared in our readings today, God is calling us to be a Kingdom influencer. We are to influence other people into the kingdom of God. We are to influence the atmosphere.
Bishop Ariel shared that there are two kinds of people: the thermostats and the thermometers. Thermometers only reflect the surroundings, but a thermostat changes surroundings. When it comes to the kingdom of God, we are called to become Kingdom influencers to influence people and to think according to the way the Kingdom thinks. It is to influence people to act according to the way the Kingdom operates. It is to influence people to be able to live out the values, the standards, the priorities of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Recently, we have this virus that had an influence to a lot of people’s minds. News was all about this Corona virus. I understand that it is bad, and I am not trivializing, but the problem is that it is creating a sense of invisibility and a fear in the mind-set of a lot of people. When the Church brought relief goods to the Taal evacuees, the people’s faces showed fear and apprehension about the lack of assurance of what is going to happen. The Church gave them hope and changed the atmosphere.
With regards to the virus, what can we do to change this fear? God did not give us the spirit of fear. Scriptures say that fear is not just an attitude, but a spirit. We don’t want this spirit to have a hold in our lives because fear is basically a belief that the power of the enemy to destroy a person is greater than the power of God to deliver the person. With God, nothing is greater than Him. People have been talking about the Corona virus, and what can we do? We can turn the people’s focus on the corona or crown of Jesus who is the King of all. If Jesus is King and the Kingdom is here, Scripture says that where the word of the King is, there is power. Scriptures talks about this in Exodus 15:26 that says, “I am the Lord your Healer.” Instead of focusing on the virus killing people, focus on the Healer. I am hoping that it is changing a lot of attitudes, a lot of taking away the fear in the lives of the people, and putting the faith back in there. If there is anything that will cause the power of God to flow in your lives, it is our faith.
When the woman with the issue of blood touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, Jesus stopped to say, “Who touched Me?” for power flowed from Him. This woman did not even asked Jesus’ permission to touch the hem of His garment. This woman did not even talk to one of the apostles to ask permission for healing from Jesus, to make her need known. She did not even want to be noticed as everyone wanted to look at Jesus. What she really wanted was just to touch Jesus and go back without anybody knowing it.
Looking at this in the eyes of the world, it is like the woman was stealing her healing – getting something without permission. When she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, she felt in her body that she was healed. Jesus looked around and said, “Who touched Me? I felt power flowing from Me.” When the woman could no longer hide herself, she knelt down before Jesus and Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.” Did He not just say that He felt power flowing from Him? We know that power flowed into the body of that woman – the power that turned sickness into health; turned disease into wellness; and yet, Jesus Christ did not credit it to His power. He said to the woman that her faith made her well. The woman was not the only one that Jesus said these words to.
The principle is that if we can just raise the faith level of people, then we can conquer the fear, and when we conquer the fear, we will have different creative ideas on how to defeat the opposition. To raise the faith level, it comes by hearing and hearing the Word of God. This has always been the way in the kingdom of God.
Proverbs 18 says that the spirit of a man is able to sustain him in sickness. When we are sick, we normally focus on our body and we find ways to strengthen our weak body. It is not just the body that needs strengthening, but also the spirit. Jesus Christ said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” He said, “My words are spirit and they are life.” Physical food for the physical body; spiritual food for the spirit. Scriptures tells us, “Attend to My words. Give heed to My saying. Incline your ears to them for they are life to all those who find them, and health and healing to all their flesh.” Where the word of the King is, there is power.
If we are influencing people to focus their hearts and their lives on the Word of God instead of the Corona virus, do you think that it is a good thing? Yes, because when we are doing this, we are changing the atmosphere. We are changing the temperature. We are giving the people hope, and telling them that this virus is not invincible. We have a King; we live in His kingdom; and His kingdom is in dominion over all! We are not going to be held slaves by this virus that the world is saying is so strong though it has affected a lot of people. We are not going to stand helpless and terrified not knowing what to do. We are the Church and the keys of the kingdom of heaven had been entrusted to us. If God wanted to do things alone, He would have, but He has chosen to work out His will, His purposes, and His ways on this earth together with us. God knows our weaknesses and our limitations, but He has given us grace that we might be able to overcome these things. When we do things and accomplish things by the grace of God, and we win, God gets the glory. God wants a people that will bring glory and honor to Him.
In our gospel today, Matthew 5 says that we are salt and light. Salt enhances flavour to something that we eat. God is saying that our little bit of obedience to Him is able to enhance the life that we have and that of others too. He wants us to bring the Kingdom influence into the lives of others. If we think of heaven, is there loneliness or despair or in heaven? There is none of these things! We pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God is bringing this to us, and He wants us to become Kingdom influencers. He wants us to salt the earth and make things better for other people. When there is fear, we want to be able to bring in some faith. Where there is despair, we want to be able to put in some hope. Where there is darkness, we want to be able to let the light shine.
Salt also preserves life. Before refrigeration in the old days, when they wanted to preserve meat, they lay it on salt to delay spoilage. It prevents corruption because it has its preserving qualities and God wants us to be salt in the earth so that we could bring forth in the lives of people the better things of the kingdom of God. We can turn someone who is bitter and show him the way of love. We can turn someone who is negative and show him the way of positivity. Just as salt corrodes metal, it has the ability to destroy something. As salt, God is calling us to destroy the darkness that is around us.
Scriptures says that Jesus Christ went about doing good and healing all those who were oppressed by the devil. The devil may by trying to make his presence known, but we are not trying to exist together with him. We are supposed to exist and drive him out of our very world. Salt brings the goodness in the kingdom of God, and at the same time, it destroys the things of the enemy.
Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has become tasteless, how can it be salty again?” God wants us to be careful that we don’t forget those things that He has taught us. It is so easy to forget. Maybe there was a time that we were influencing people for good, but if we have started listening to the wrong things, receiving the spirit of the world that could be loud and extravagant, we might get attracted to the glitter and the glamour of the world and adapt to it if we are not careful. We might sacrifice and compromise what we have learned from the kingdom of God.
Jesus says, “Make sure that you do not lose your saltiness.” What we are facing today is a battle of character. The world is saying, “You have the skills and the talents, but why use it and make somebody’s name famous when you can use it yourself?” We understand this in the world, but when it happens in the Church, it is not good. The Church is not supposed to reflect the world; the Church is supposed to reflect the kingdom of God and change the atmosphere of the world.
The problem with some Christians today is that they got good gifts and good skills, but if they never develop the character that God has given them, their gifts and skills will be able to bring them to a place where their character cannot sustain them. It might bring them to a place of prominence where people begin to see, but there is the pressure to perform. If they forget that they are doing this for the glory of God, they begin to center in on themselves. There may be a time that we were serving God and we didn’t care who got the glory. But then, we listen to the world and we say, “God is getting all the glory, what about me?” Then, we can make something that is good look bad.
Some people will come to Christian believers and would ask for prayers for a person with cancer. Somebody will say, “I believe God with you. I will agree with you in prayer. The Word of God says that when we agree, the Father will see to it that what we have agreed upon in prayer, He will do it.” This is salt. However, someone might say, “Oh, does that person have that? I have a relative who recently died with cancer too.” There will always be someone who will make something good to sound like it is bad. There will always be someone who will rain in your parade. There will always be someone who will make what we want to do for God look like its bad. There will always be someone who will point out the weaknesses, the dirt, and the criticism instead of what God is saying, and some of these people used to be people who would salt lives. Somewhere along the line, instead of using words in a positive way, we allow words to become fuel for the enemy. Our authority is released through words – something which we had forgotten.
Jesus said in Mark 11:23, “Whosoever shall say to unto this mountain, ‘Be thou removed and be cast down into the sea and shall not doubt in his heart but shall believe that those things which he says will come to pass,’ he will have whatever he says.” Use our words for the kingdom of God. Use our words for the glory of God. Don’t use words that the enemy can use. They are not just words, for Jesus said that they are spirit and life. Reference to this is mentioned four times in Scriptures: Matthew 17:10; Matthew 21:21; Mark 11:23; and in Luke 17:6. Jesus says that words can do something that may be unbelievable to us, but we have to make sure that we align ourselves with Jesus Christ. If there is anyone who knows something about the kingdom of God, it is Him. If anyone can use someone whom we don’t think can be used, it is God, and this is God’s specialty.
We are salt and we can only be salt for as long as we maintain our standing with our God. We choose the fear of the Lord, then, we choose the ways of the Lord. If we choose the ways of the Lord, then, we choose the Word of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is not us being afraid of God. Rather, the fear of the Lord is us having a deep reverence and respect for God who gave His only Son so that we can be sons and daughters of the Almighty. We align ourselves with Him by doing things His way. It is not doing things our way especially if it is clashing with God’s ways.
We only remain salt for as long as we are aligned to the King of the Kingdom.
Judas’ name came from the word Judah that meant praise. It might be that when Judas’ father named him, he was meant to bring praise to the Lord, but because of his betrayal, it has meant being a traitor. He could have been one of the twelve who became the pillars in the Church, but somewhere along the line, he tried doing things his way instead of God’s way and fell out. Instead of being salt, he made things worse for other people.
God called us to become salt of the earth. Some people misread that and think, “God called me to become the vinegar of the earth.” Vinegar did not only point to the mistakes, the weaknesses or to the lack of character, education, intellect and of everything, but God can work with people like these. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God. The poor in spirit understands, “I can’t do it without you, God. I won’t go forward without you, God. I will not try to do this on my own. Lord, if you never show up, I will sink and die and I will not do it on my own.” Christ did not say, “Blessed are those who are so self-sufficient in their skill, in their money and in their all.”
God gives grace to the humble, but to the proud, He resists them. If man resists us, it is okay because he is only a man; but if God resist us, there is no hope in winning against God. We are living in a day and age where humility, the fear of the Lord, is going to be very vital to us. This is how things are going to be perceived in the kingdom of God. It is not those who are bombastic, those who draw attention to themselves, but its people who are willing to do things for the glory of God.
Jesus says, “You are the light of the world, and you do your good works so that your Father might be glorified in heaven.” It is not getting to yourself because if this is your attitude, you are teaching them the wrong thing. What does Jesus say about teaching others the wrong things? He said, “Your righteousness must surpass that of the scribes and the Pharisees. He says whoever then annuls one of these of the least of my commandments and teaches others to do the same thing, they shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” When people follow you, do they become people of faith, of hope, and see the positive side? Do they learn to love? Or when they follow you, do they learn to be more critical, more pessimistic and negative? Are they speaking out of harshness and criticism?
Jesus said if this is what is being taught to others, they will be least in the kingdom of God. You might be number one in the eyes of certain individuals, but God said to Samuel, “God sees not like man sees for man sees appearances, but I, the Lord, look at the heart.” We are impressed with people who know how to speak well. We are impressed with people with money and who got their stuff and who are not willing to see their character defects. God is impressed with humility and servanthood. God is impressed with obedience and with those who would choose His ways over the world’s ways.
We are salt; we are light. It is not about appearances, which was the mistake of the Pharisees. God said, “You are whitewash on the outside, but you are rotten on the inside.” We do works of righteousness not to become righteous; we do works of obedience because God has already made us righteous. The blood of Jesus has already covered our sin, and everything that we do and say is not going to be about us. Everything that we do and we say must be about God and His kingdom, and this is the way it in the kingdom of our God.