Salt and Saints with Purpose

by Sean Foster on January 19, 2014

I Corinthians 1:1-9

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes. To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind — just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you — so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

A-men.

I am just getting things prepared to renew my passport. Well, I am renewing, but I decided that we should get the kids passports too.

Passports are important… They give us permissions, privileges to travel to other countries. And Canadian passports in particular are coveted because there is virtually no place in the world that we can’t go, … with a passport.

A friend of mine went away over the Christmas holidays. A place warm and relaxing. (Can you hear my envy?) But somehow or somewhere along the way, his wife lost her passport. Now we know how important passports are, we know the benefits of having a passport, but you seem to have a greater appreciation for that little 3.5” by 5” little blue book when it goes missing; especially when you are in another country.

As Christians, we have a holy passport. Through Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, we have access to God. A door that was once closed to us because of our sin, Christ died for us, was raised to life, and in dying for our sin, having victory over death and being resurrected to life, Jesus has paid the price of our sin, giving us access to God. Jesus is our passport to the riches of the kingdom of God. And it is a gift that God gives to us. By grace through faith as Paul the Apostle wrote in his letter to the Ephesian Church.

I suppose one day when we cross the river to be with the Lord, we will one day, if we haven’t already, we will come to understand how precious is that gift of life that we have through Christ.

Paul writes to the Church in Corinth to encourage them. I mean, despite the fact that this was a church that was full of problems, they were also a church with many gifts.

Against all odds, this Church in Corinth grew. Corinth was the city of sin. It was the Vegas of its day. And despite the fact that the congregation is surrounded by such sin and evil, they continue to grow. And as I say, this was a congregation blessed with many gifts of the Holy Spirit. They were blessed with people who could preach the Word. There were those in that congregation who could speak in tongues. Others who could discern spirits, in that God had gifted them with the ability to know if something was right or wrong.

It is no wonder Paul begins his letter to this congregation by giving thanks to God for the grace that had been given to them. Paul continues saying that they had been enriched in every way. In fact Paul reminds them, they do not lack any spiritual gift. And yet, here is the irony within that congregation. It was the spiritual gifts that were given by God that was causing some of the division and strife that congregation was experiencing.

These gifts had caused them to believe that they were better than other people. More spiritual, more important.
• People who could preach thought of themselves better than those who couldn’t.
• People with the gift of tongues thought they should run the worship services.
• Those who were wealthy would bring a feast to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and exclude the poor, who would go home hungry.

It was amazing. Absolutely amazing that this church continued to grow. It was only … by God’s Grace.

And therein lies the problem.
• The failure to recognize the source of their grace.
• The source of their gifted-ness.
• The source of their blessings.

The Corinthians had come to think of themselves as great!
• Look what we can do!
• Look at what we have done!
The gifts of preaching, teaching, tongues, healing, wisdom, discernment. They are gifts that are given to us by God.

And the danger in the Corinthians way of thinking – that they were somehow great; they forgot that it was God who gifted them and made them look great. And the danger was that they would stop trusting in God’s Grace.

Jesus said to his disciples, his followers, a simple and yet powerful statement about who they were as his followers: You are the salt of the earth. (Matthew 5:13) It is a humbling statement when you consider the meaning: You are the salt of the earth.

You are the salt of the earth. It means that we are special, we are different.

Now typically we want to make an adjustment to that statement. We would rather soften the impact of what that statement means. We would rather dumb it down a bit and take away the responsibility that goes along with it. Instead of you are, we would rather the statement read:
• You ought to be, the salt of the earth.
• Or, if only you would be, the salt of the earth.
• Or, someday you will become, the salt of the earth.

But, that’s not what Jesus said. Jesus said, you are,
• right at this very moment,
• you are, the salt of the earth.

It means,
• We are unique to the world.
• We are God’s gift.
o Have you ever thought of yourself that way?
o You are God’s gift to the world?
• We give flavor to the world.

Paul said it this way. He said that we are Saints. And if you thought that being called salt made you feel uncomfortable, try on that word Saint for awhile and apply it to your life. Being reminded that we are Saints is even more humbling in my mind.
• But, that’s who we are by God’s grace.
• That is our identity because of Christ.
• We are Saints.

Notice verse 2 of our lesson.
To the church in Corinth
• To those sanctified.

o Sanctified means righteous
o It means that we are justified.
o We are Saints.
o Washed, Cleansed, Redeemed.
o In right standing before God.
o We are sanctified.

Paul writes, to those sanctified, called to be holy, together [or united with] those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now let me be clear. They were not Saints because of anything they had done. They were Saints because of what Christ had done for them. Not of their own doing. Without Christ, they had, we have no relationship with God.

Without Christ,
• They are not sanctified.
• They are not justified.
• They are not cleansed.
• They are not forgiven.
• They are not in right standing before God.
• They are not Saints.
And nor do they posses any gifts of the Holy Spirit.

God has called us to be in relationship. To be his children. To be salt in this world. And by His Grace, to be Saints.

I mean, now that we are in Christ, we have a new identity. We are changed people. And as such, we have new responsibilities for living in this world. We have a new mission. We have a new mandate. Inviting all to be alive in Christ.

Whether we feel like we are Saints or not, we are called to walk the way of faith. You see, in this lesson from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he is suggesting that God has deliberately… deliberately encountered these Corinthians through Paul proclaiming the Good News of Jesus to them. And through Paul’s preaching, and the Holy Spirit at work in their lives calling those Corinthians into relationship, and forming a church, a community of followers of Jesus; God had graced them. And note verse 7. God had graced them so much that they it reads were not lacking in any spiritual gift [to show forth the glory of God], as they waited for the revealing of the Lord Jesus Christ. And then, let’s skip over verse 8 and continue with verse 9. Notice that God called them and would sustain them. Verse 9: God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ.

So, what that means is that:
• It was no accident that these Corinthians were followers of Jesus Christ.
o God had called them into relationship.
• It was no accident that they were gifted in so many marvelous ways by the Holy Spirit.
It was no accident, because God had a plan…. and a purpose…. for their lives.

Can you see where I am going with this? Because here’s my sermon…

Whether we think we are Saints or not… we have been called into relationship. It is not by accident that you are a Christian. It is not even an accident that you worship and are part of the community of Hopedale Presbyterian Church. God has called you here. It is no accident that God has graced you with the gifts that you have. God has a plan for your life.
• You are a Saint!
• You are the Salt of the earth!
• You flavor this world with God’s grace!
• You have a God given purpose for your life!
• It is not by accident.

Sometimes we feel that God has asked too much of us. You ever feel that way? Because I am going to try and shatter that way of thinking. Let’s think about it logically.

To believe or think that God has called us to do something that is too difficult or impossible, that would assume that God is setting you up for failure. Do you really believe that God is setting you up to fail? Do you believe that God wants you to fail at something that He calls you to do?

Now do you believe that what God calls you to do is too difficult or impossible?

God gifts us, and equips us and strengthens us. Not only that, God is with us. The problem is – we don’t depend on God. We actually try to do things on our own strength and according to our own ability. The reason we think that God is calling us to do things that are too difficult or impossible is because on our own strength – they are. Don’t look at what God calls you to do according to your flesh, see the call God has for your life through the new spirit that God has given to you. Know and believe that nothing is impossible for those who trust in the Lord.

Trust God that he will gift; that he will equip; that He will strengthen you to fulfill his calling in your life. You are God’s gift to the world…
• To share His Grace
• To share His Love
• To be ambassadors of reconciliation
• To be sharers of mercy.

You are the salt of the earth.

You are Saints.

See? By the time we finish dealing with the text, the sermon is easy.

It is not by accident. God has called us into relationship with a purpose.

You are His light in this world.

A-men.

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