Friday, June 17, 2016

Seasoned with Salt

Paul  wrapped up his letter to this church about 100 miles east of Ephesus.  He wanted to maximize the impact of this letter and asked that the church in Colossae share the letter with those in Laodicea and Hierapolis and that they in turn share whatever correspondence they have. 

Did Paul write more letters than we have in our Bibles?  I would think so.  For someone who had so much to say about how to live and grow in God’s grace, it is hard to image that he only wrote a handful of letters while sitting in prison.  We are blessed to have those that we have, but I would think there were more.

We should also remember that Paul wrote letters, not textbooks.  Many parts of his letters make for excellent biblical text books, but there is also stuff that is just unique to letters.  Paul made sure that everyone was caught up on what everyone else was doing, at least for those that those in Asia Minor might have know.

Tychicus was heading to this group of believers, most likely to deliver this letter but also to share all of the other stuff that people want to know. 

It might be compared to when Rick and I went to Africa.  We were truly on a mission from God and we reported on that mission upon our return.  Of course, there was the other stuff that people generally wanted to know as well.

The observation that crops were fenced in while livestock roamed wherever made for good discussion.  Our border crossing coming from Uganda to Kenya was interesting, considering the vehicle that we were in had issues, namely, “its papers were not in order.”

I thought it was interesting that after we received another vehicle that came with its own driver and functional air conditioning we started making good time.  Apparently, we were making better time that we should have been as the vehicle was pulled over.  Unlike the United States where the officer issues a ticket and you are on your way; the Kenyan way was to hold court on the side of the road.  That took about an hour and a half.

I remember passing a herd of cattle being walked along the side of the road about half an hour or so before we were pulled over.  Then I remember being passed by that same herd of cattle as we sat waiting on our driver.

Those are sort of the “Mission Plus” stories that Tychicus could tell that wouldn’t make it into the letter.  Another servant in the faith will Paul, Oneimus, planned to accompany Tychicus.   These men could bring everyone up to speed on the day to day life and tell whatever tall tales needed telling.

Paul noted that some were still contending at Paul’s side.  Aristarchus was evidently imprisoned as well.  Others were working outside the prision walls.  Mark, Justus, Epaphras, Dr. Luke, and Demas were all mentioned as contending for the faith, praying for those in the churches in Asia Minor, and desiring that those who followed Jesus would stand firm in the faith.

Paul had specific messages for those in the area.  Nympha or Nymphas—depending upon whether this person was a man or woman—had started a home church and Paul wanted to make sure that he acknowledged and encouraged that this work continue.  Many of your translations make the decision for you and describe this as the church in her home.  In any case, Paul encouraged this home church as he did those that met as a larger body.

Archippus was also singled out.  Paul reminded him to complete the work that he had been given.  We see only a brief reference to Archippus in Paul’s letter to Philemon.    He and his sister had a home church as well.  Whether ministering to this home church was the work that he received in the Lord or it was something else we won’t find out this side of eternity.

Paul had some specific instructions for specific individuals and he was sending men to share all of the other stories.
But Paul had a request and a bit more instruction for this church and its sister churches.  His request was simple:  Keep praying for me!  Keep praying for those with Paul.

He didn’t ask that people pray that God arrange another release from prison.  Paul asked that he continue to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ with clarity and that his ministry be effective regardless of where he was.  To apply one of Paul’s own metaphors that he did not use here—pray that he will continue to run the good race, fight the good fight, and keep the faith.

Then comes this final pairing of counsel.  Paul said:

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.

We find this same counsel in Paul’s letter to Ephesus.  God’s people have always desired his wisdom, but few actively seek it.

God’s wisdom tells us not to argue with a fool; yet, we are sent into a world that is foolish in the eyes of God.  We, however, must bediscerning.  We must understand how to use each situation to advance the gospel.

Sometimes this means that we are creative and find another way to reach the lost in the world.  Sometimes this gives us permissions to shake the dust off of our sandals and move on.

Making the most of every opportunity is to listen to God’s Spirit that lives within us and seize the moment when we are called to action.

Sometimes we offer a gentle word or a box of food or a Chewy Tuesdays lunch and sometimes we move on down the road so as not to argue with a fool.  If someone is spewing words of hate, they might be pleading for help.  Most likely, they are not.  They are not receptive to your overtures of love and hope.

Making the most of every opportunity means to move on in this case.  Getting into a spitting contest is not the wisest investment of your time and energy.  Use them elsewhere.
But what about those times where we might make some inroads?  Paul followed this counsel on wisdom and opportunity with another provocative statement.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

We are not going to connect with everyone.  Even Paul who set his sights very high noted that he became all things to all people so that some might be saved.  We should expect some rejection from this world that does not know God, but sometimes a door is opened to us with those who are struggling with knowing God.

How do we speak to them?  Our words are full of grace, not judgment.  These people who are ready to listen know that something is not right in their lives.  We do not need to be the voice of condemnation.

Our words speak of God’s grace.  We should convey this message in the first person as people who have received, live in, and continue to grow in God’s grace.

This life in Jesus Christ is not just theory for us.  It is real.  It is who we are!

When we talk with those who are still lost or at least disconnected, spice it up a little.  We should be interesting people!  People should get a taste of God’s goodness when they talk with us.

The term Stuffy Christian should be an oxymoron!  The two terms should be like trying to connect the same poles on magnets.  They should repel each other.

We should not be stuffy.  We are salty.  The term Salty Christians should be redundant.

What is it to be salty?

Salt was part of covenants and offerings and sacrifices.

Salt preserves.

Salt stings a little if it gets in a wound.

Salt was plowed into the fields of a defeated enemy to keep them defeated long after the battles were won.

Salt adds a distinctive taste to food.

When you add salt to something, you seldom just put it in one spot.  You spread it out.
Salt can make us thirsty.

Our bodies are made up of just less than half a percent of salt, but if you lose too much of that very small amount of salt that makes up you,  then you become weak and fatigued, and even irritable. 

If we get too much salt, we retain water, our blood pressure can go up, our kidneys don’t work as well as they should, your arteries can stiffen, as well as other things that don’t go well with living to a ripe old age.

Jesus called us the salt of the earth.  Paul told us that our conversation should be full of grace and seasoned with salt.

While there are many interpretations to being the salt of the earth; Paul restricts his to those that might apply to seasoning.  So let’s think about being this God seasoning in our encounters with others, especially those who have yet to experience what it is to live in and grow in God’s grace.

Every time that we converse—that term has a very broad definition in this age of electronic connections—we are full of God’s grace and we season our communication with a taste of God’s goodness.

Sometimes we say all that we need to for the moment in delivering a GOD LOVES YOU – LOVE ONE ANOTHER wristband.

Sometimes we communicate how far we missed the mark and how much farther God’s grace went than our transgressions.

Sometimes we ask if someone is ready to turn away from an ungodly lifestyle—people don’t always understand the word repent—and receive God’s love that we know in Jesus.

Sometimes we challenge people to think on why in the world they are in the world—what is your purpose in life?

We converse in grace—without condemning others.  We have fallen short, been rescued, and now live in right standing with God.  We grow in his grace. 

Sometimes that growth calls us to challenge others, but to do it in love.

One of the ways that we can season our conversation is to communicate in the first person.  We are not people of doctrine and rigid rules but of love.  We need to convey that in the first person.

You have a story to tell not a religion to promote.  People will taste God’s goodness in your story and in your experiences.

You have love to convey not scripts to memorize.  That’s what it is to be seasoned with salt.

You have a faith to share not converts to accumulate.

Your witness to others that is seasoned with salt will sound a whole lot like an everyday conversation, except that seasoning will speak to the goodness of God.

People will know the goodness of God not because you say Amen or Praise the Lord every fourth word, but because of your willingness to share what God has done and is doing in your life.

How are people to understand grace if it is only something we talk about as an event from 2000 years ago. 

We are people who live in and grow in grace, and that alone makes us interesting people.  For those who are struggling to know God, they shouldn’t be thinking, “Oh no, here come those Christians” every time that they see us.

People should want to talk with us.  We are full of God’s Spirit.  We live in and grow in his grace.  We practice love as a way of life.  We are interesting people.

But if we want to connect with others, we need to share our story.  We need to share how we know God’s love in our life.  We share the story of God’s love poured out on the cross but we do it by sharing how God is working in our lives.

We talk about God’s grace as a first person experience and that will season our conversations with salt.  We will know exactly what we need to say.

Think about all of the things that we know for sure—
·      God loves us
·      We have been made right with God
·      We are brothers and sisters to Christ
·      God will never leave or forsake us
·      We are commissioned to take the good news to the world
·      We are disciples of our Lord Jesus
·      God is love and we are to love one another
·      God’s Spirit is with us and within us
·      We know life, life abundant, and life eternal

The list goes on.  This blessed assurance continues in so many other ways not enumerated here; however, we should add this to the list that we are interesting people.

Living and growing in God’s grace, we are interesting people and uniquely prepared to season our conversations with the goodness of God.

As we follow Jesus, if we will just live as the interesting people that we are, continue to seek God’s wisdom, and be faithful in our prayer, we will find many doors open to us to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

Some will reject our message no matter how interesting we are, but some will be saved.

Some will be saved.

Some will be saved.


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