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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:The Reformed Church of Oamaru
 Oamaru, New Zealand
 sites.google.com/site/rcoamaru/
 
Title:Be What You Are
Text:Mark 9:50b (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Preached:2022-02-13
Added:2022-06-25
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


MARK 9:50b

(Reading: 1 John 3:11-24; Mark 9:33-37; 49-50)

 

Be What You Are

 

 

Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ…

 

     We have come to the third of the trilogy found in these last two short verses in Mark chapter 9. But unlike other trilogies we know there is no connecting theme joining these three together. This is no Lord of the Rings trilogy where one book or movie flows chronologically into the next. Nor is this anything like Klaas Schilder’s trilogy where three books by that Dutch theologian are very closely connected around the subject of the doing and dying of our Lord Jesus Christ.

     Rather, all that ties these three proverbs together is that word “salt”. And that’s all. Because as you dig into each of these three sayings you will see how essentially different they are from each other. All we can confirm about these three being here together is that Mark used a middle-eastern pattern for collecting different things together.

     This is why in the text before us we must consider what kind of link with salt is being brought out by our Lord just in this proverb. It is clear it is about salt and it is about us. So let’s see where these two tie together here.

 

     In our first aspect, then, we consider … WHAT KIND OF SALT THIS IS. Here we look at the first part of our text, the part where the Lord says, “Have salt in yourselves…”

     So what is it to have salt in ourselves? Which use of salt is this highlighting? Is it flavouring, purifying, or something else?

     The clue here is in what this does to us on the inside – “Have salt in yourselves…” the text begins. The previous proverb touched into this but here our Lord wants to focus on it for a different reason. This is something to do with our hearts. And so salt here must be seen in the sense of purity.

     The ancients declared that there was nothing in the world purer than salt because it came from the two purest things – the sun and the sea. The very glistening whiteness of salt was a picture of purity. So we would take this to mean having within ourselves the purifying influence of the Spirit of Christ.

     Congregation, unless we have goodness within, unless the Word of God applied by the Holy Spirit has transformed us into true disciples of Christ, it’s useless for us to try to influence others for good. We have to be purified from selfishness and self-seeking, from bitterness and anger and grudge-bearing. We have to be cleansed from irritation and moodiness and self-centredness.

 

     To have salt within yourself means you have within yourself those qualities that promote truth - kindness, peace, joy, patience, and all those other fruit of the Spirit. I mean, that’s what they are, aren’t they? Fruit of the Spirit! And with the attributes of God alive in you what can you be but pure?

     This is what we read of in 1st John 3:19. Because of the love on our hearts we know we are of the truth and in the truth. Then we are not our own but belong body and soul to our faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.

     “Have salt in yourselves” tells us to be what we now are. The tense used in the Greek tells us that the action happens in the present time, that the subject carries out the action, and that it is a true statement. So we must have the salt of the gospel in our lives.

     But this is never a given – you can’t take it for granted. We have already heard the warning about salt losing its saltiness. That’s why every disciple of Jesus needs to keep in mind their accountability toward God.

     I mean, can you honestly say before God at any time at all: ‘Lord, I have salt in myself’? Are you always able to declare, ‘I am pure before you – I am glistening, I am shining out your goodness’?

     Man, that’s a big ask, isn’t it? But you have to be what you are! You haven’t been called and led by the Lord through his Word and Spirit to be anything but this!

 

     You see, you cannot be anything for the Lord unless this is what you are first of all. For having seen WHAT KIND OF SALT THIS IS, we go on to see in the text … WHAT KIND OF EFFECT THIS HAS. Here we turn to the second part of this proverb. We are looking at what it is to “be at peace with one another.”

     It seems Jesus has in mind here a connection to what he has just spoken about to his disciples. We read in the verses 33 till 37 of this same ninth chapter of Mark about the dispute that arose between the disciples. They had been arguing about who was the greatest amongst them.

     This certainly was not living out of what they should be as those following Jesus. In fact, arguing like this was showing the acts of the sinful nature – not the fruit of the Spirit. This was the enmity, strife, and jealousy that only dirties up our lives.

     And how vividly didn’t Jesus show that by taking that child and placing right in the midst of them? He really gets to exposing them by doing that!

     You see, then children were not meant to be even seen, let alone heard – to adjust the well-known quote! They were very low on the social scale, unlike they are today. And so Jesus taking that child into his arms and declaring that whoever receives such a child in his name receives him – the Master himself – is something quite revolutionary for that time!

     Jesus couldn’t have more strongly and graphically made his point. He really confronts them with what they should be. Because they must be humble with each other. And when you are like that with each other you’re not out to get one up on each other!

     While the key word in the first part of our text has been “salt” in the second part it is “peace”. So we need to realise what kind of peace this “peace” is. And especially we need to know what kind of peace this is because it is in the imperative tense. This means it is a command. You don’t have a choice about this kind of peace.

     In our world “peace” is often just seen as a lack of conflict. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t war out there. If anything, that kind of peace is only the gaps between the wars. Man’s sinful nature means there will always be war.

     You only need to reflect on why the United Nations was formed. It was the way the countries of the world thought they could stop a war like World War II ever happening again. But what has been the reality ever since its institution in 1945? It was an inter-governmental organisation founded to maintain international peace and security. So how has that gone?

     It never got going, actually. Today there are just as many conflicts as there has ever been at any one time. This cannot be the peace of our text.

     Or can it? In the New Testament “peace” does refer to human concord, or human harmony we could also say. It has in it an aspect of the Hebrew word, Shalom.

     So it was a commonly used greeting. ‘Peace be upon you’ and so on. But it not only involved getting on with other people it especially came to point to what we need to have with God. This means that peace is what flows out of that reconciliation we have with God because of what he did in his Son.

     And from this the state of peace brings about in us an ‘already’ situation. This ‘already’ is the taste we may enjoy now of what we will fully have in paradise. It’s a taste of glory, if you like.

     Because of this peace that we now have in God we can actually have peace with each other. But it is peace only because of the covenant connection we have. As those who are part of the same Body – Christ’s Body, the Church – we can have a blessed unity together.

 

     It is in this way that we come to the third aspect to our proverb. Here it is we note … WHAT KIND OF CHURCH THIS MAKES.

     The key word here is the very last word in our text. This is the word which is translated by two words in our English versions – which is, “one another”. This is a word which appears often in the New Testament, over one hundred times. And it is in just over half of those occasions that it appears as a specific command teaching us how to relate to each other. That’s quite a few instances.

     These commands naturally relate to how we are to act towards each other in the church. These commands exhort us to love one another, as in John 13:34, honour one another, as in Romans 12:10, live in harmony with one another, also in Romans 12:10, serve one another, as in Galatians 6:2, forgive one another, as in Ephesians 4:2, and on and on they go. They form the basis for all true Christian community, and have a direct impact on our witness to the world. Jesus says in John 13:35 that all those around us will see we are his disciples when we show those qualities to our fellow Christians.

     Here we have a logical flow on to having salt in ourselves and being at peace. Because it has to affect others. And so when you go through the list of the times the word for “one another” appears most are in the New Testament letters. Then the apostles are applying what it is Christ has done into the Church.

     If within the brotherhood there is nothing but complaining and quarrelling, how can those calling themselves Christians expect to win others for Christ? If there’s no peace between us how is God’s peace going to get out there?

     No wonder this is one of the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. For there in Matthew 5:9 Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

     In Luke 10:6 the evangelist even describes believers as the sons of peace. There he pictures those who receive other believers and who provide hospitality for them as those whom peace rests upon. And then the brother of our Lord writes in James 3:18, “…a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

     Friend, do you truly love? Are you ready to sacrifice yourself for others? Have you got sound common sense with the way you interact with others?

     Like salt we are to bring out the better natures of those around us. So are you putting yourself in their shoes? Do you go out of your way to get out of their way?

     That might seem a strange way of putting it. But how often don’t we have to put our natural selves out of the picture to clearly see what they need?

     You know what I mean – our biases, our likes and dislikes, our personal little ideologies. Something the disciples then were showing up very badly! They who had become so wrapped up in their vested little interests – who was the greatest among them and so on. And, congregation, we’re no different – no different at all!

     This brings to mind an ancient salt vow that used to be made. You see, if two people shared salt, they were bound to defend and support each other, even if they had been enemies. So shouldn’t those following Christ also live out a similar vow with each other?

     Then your focus isn’t on the earthly things that subsumed you before. Together we are looking up – to him who is above. And how much doesn’t that light change the way we live here below?

     It certainly did for the early New Testament Church. They became universally known for the way the treated each other in the church. There was even a saying said about those Christians by the pagans around them. It goes like this: “See how they love one another!”

     What do you reckon – something to think about? Wouldn’t it be much better to actually do it?

     Amen.

 

 

PRAYER:

 

Let’s pray…

 

     Loving Heavenly Father, how blessed aren’t we in you? Who has what we have – your love to us, the faith in Jesus in us, and the hope of eternal life ahead of us. So what are we doing getting bogged down in the stench and mud of this world?

     Oh Lord, please forgive us. By your Spirit convict us and turn us to you time and again.

     In the name of the Son of your love, we pray.

     Amen.

 

 

 

    




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: www.rcnz.org.nz

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