#8 (THE "BEATTITUDES" SERIES)
"THE TOTAL DIFFERENCE"
TEXT: Matt. 5:10-16
INTRO: There is a cereal on the market called "TOTAL." Its advertising slogan is a contrast between TOTAL and other cereals, which of course shows their own product as superior ... it ends with: "It's the TOTAL difference."
The whole aim of advertisers in comparing products is to emphasize the "TOTAL" difference between their product and others: i.e. one product will say how their medication should last 8 hours, while their competitor's product lasts only 4-6 hours. Another will stress that they have 1,000 milligrams of pain relief while their competitor has only 500. Car companies will share their total difference with other vehicles of the same or greater sticker prices ... and on and on it goes.
What they are striving to do is to show the TOTAL difference, with the goal of bringing you their way to their product.
Just what is the TOTAL DIFFERENCE between Christianity and this world? Does being a Christian mean something different? If it does, what is it?
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that we are to be different from this world, a TOTAL difference in values, morals, lifestyle, and perspective. We are called to a three-fold ministry of PRESERVATION (Salt); REVELATION (Light); and DEMONSTRATION (Good Deeds). Our lives should reflect Jesus Christ, a TOTAL DIFFERENCE in the way the world lives.
I. PERSECUTION! 5:10-12
A. Righteousness 5:10-11
1. When a real Christian shows up on this planet, the world gets real uncomfortable.
a. When our values really reflect God's kingdom, we look "different" from this world.
b. Notice that the blessing spoken of here is connected to when we are persecuted because of righteousness, not because of something else.
2. There are Christians who have been persecuted, but not always for the reason of righteousness.
3. Christ's righteousness acts as important protection from the values of this world, which in turn helps us to have a TOTAL DIFFERENCE in the way we value things.
4. The world gets real uncomfortable around real Christians because they know we are different.
a. Christ's righteousness makes this difference.
b. Their sinfulness makes them feel guilty around Christ's righteousness.
ILLUS:A MOTORCYCLE COP IN LOS ANGELES SAW A RED PICKUP TRUCK SPEEDING THROUGH A STOP SIGN. HE PUT HIS LIGHT ON TO PULL THE DRIVER OVER. WHAT HE DIDN'T KNOW WAS THAT THIS MAN IN THE TRUCK HAD JUST ROBBED A 24 HOUR MARKET AND THE SACK OF MONEY WAS STILL SITTING ON THE FRONT SEAT OF THE TRUCK. THE TRUCK DRIVER THOUGHT TO HIMSELF; "HE MUST KNOW AND NOW I'VE HAD IT!" THE POLICE OFFICER THINKING IT WAS JUST A ROUTINE STOP WALKED OVER TO THE TRUCK AND AS THE TRUCK DRIVER ROLLED DOWN THE WINDOW BEGAN WITH "GOOD MORNING SIR, MAY I SEE YOUR..." HE NEVER GOT TO FINISH THE SENTENCE BECAUSE THE TRUCK DRIVER HAD REACHED INTO HIS COAT AND PULLED OUT A HANDGUN AND FIRED POINT BLANK INTO THE POLICE OFFICER'S CHEST. THE SHOT KNOCKED THE OFFICER BACK 7 FEET THROUGH THE AIR AND HE LANDED ON HIS BACK. HOWEVER, A FEW SECONDS LATER, TO THE SURPRISE OF THE CRIMINAL THE OFFICER STOOD UP AND DREW HIS SERVICE REVOLVER AND FIRED TWICE AT THE TRUCK DRIVER. ONE BULLET WENT THROUGH THE OPEN WINDOW AND SMASHED THE WINDSHIELD, THE SECOND BULLET RIPPED INTO THE DRIVER'S LEG. AT THIS POINT THE TRUCK DRIVER SCREAMED, "DON'T SHOOT." AND HE THREW THE GUN HE HAD OUT THE WINDOW AND THE SACK OF MONEY. HE SURRENDERED. HOW DID THE COP MANAGE TO HAVE BEEN UNHURT WITH BEING SHOT IN THE CHEST? THE OFFICER HAD ON A BULLET PROOF VEST, MADE OF A MATERIAL CALLED KEVLAR THAT CAN STOP BULLETS COLD! WHEN WE HAVE ON CHRIST'S "BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS" WE TOO CAN BE SAFE FROM THE ENEMY'S ATTACKS. -- Source Unknown
5. The world does not like what Jesus stands for and what He taught.
a. Therefore, when we really live out what Christ taught, the world won't like us either.
b. There is a "TOTAL DIFFERENCE" between what we consider important and what the world considers important.
B. Reward 5:12
1. Strangely enough, Jesus states that when we are persecuted because of righteousness we can be happy. Why?
a. Because it demonstrates that our "differentness" shows. Proof that we are really citizens of a heavenly kingdom.
b. Because that "differentness" shows to those around us the power of Christ in a human life.
c. Because it means that we have a greater reward awaiting us than just the stuff of this temporal world.
2. We do not live for just the here and now as God's children; we live in such a way as to put an emphasis on eternity ... both present and future. The world lives basically for just today.
a. Hence the label of the "NOW GENERATION."
b. The reason our national debt is so high is that we are living for the moment and postponing the payments until tomorrow.
3. Jesus explained that the former prophets were all persecuted because they lived as though there was a tomorrow to answer for. Jesus Himself was persecuted because He had a message of "tomorrow." Jesus states here that if we live today like there really is a tomorrow we will also be rebuffed by this world as were the prophets of old.
II. PRESERVATION (Salt) 5:13
A. Rottenness 5:13a
1. Jesus uses an illustration about what it means to be a Christian in this world ... He likens us to salt.
a. Salt in antiquity was a primary source of preserving things.
b. Salt was used in antiquity like we use refrigeration today.
c. Salt was known to stop the rotting process in something, or when used in wounds, to disinfect.
d. In this way salt was a "cleansing" agent. In the same way Jesus states that this is what we are like in the world.
2. Real Christianity has a preserving character on this world ... to keep sin from causing fatal rot in our society.
a. The world may complain about us, but if it weren't for Christ's righteousness in the lives of His people this nation would rot for sure in sin.
b. We act as a check on the rot of sin running its course in our society.
c. It is still the values of the Bible that keep us from completely falling apart and rotting from within.
3. In antiquity, salt was considered so important that at times it was traded like gold; it was actually used for currency.
4. In some Bedouin cultures in the Middle East, salt was used to wash a new born baby to protect it from infection. If they were out of salt, they used camel's urine to wash the baby because of its high salt content.
5. Living as real Christians in the world will have an impact on the spread of sin; it will slow the rot of sin on our culture.
ILLUS:IN SEPTEMBER OF 1994, CINDY HARTMAND OF CONWAY, ARKANSAS, WALKED INTO HER HOUSE TO ANSWER THE PHONE AND WAS CONFRONTED BY A BURGLAR. HE RIPPED THE PHONE CORD OUT OF THE WALL AND ORDERED HER INTO A CLOSET. CINDY INSTEAD DROPPED TO HER KNEES AND ASKED THE BURGLAR IF SHE COULD PRAY FOR HIM ADDING, "I WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT GOD LOVES YOU AND I FORGIVE YOU." AT THIS POINT THE BURGLAR STOPPED AND BEGAN TO APOLOGIZE FOR WHAT HE HAD DONE. THEN HE YELLED OUT THE DOOR TO A WOMAN IN A PICKUP TRUCK THAT WAS THERE TO HELP HIM AND SAID, "WE'VE GOT TO UNLOAD ALL OF THIS STUFF, THIS IS A CHRISTIAN HOME AND A CHRISTIAN FAMILY, WE CAN'T DO THIS TO THEM." AS CINDY REMAINED ON HER KNEES, THE BURGLAR RETURNED THE FURNITURE THAT HE HAD TAKEN FROM HER HOME. THEN HE TOOK OUT THE GUN HE USED AND REMOVED ALL THE BULLETS, AND HANDED THE GUN TO HER AND WALKED OUT THE DOOR. HER GENUINE CHRISTIANITY HAD SOOTHED THE ROT IN HIS SPIRIT. -- Source Unknown
6. Salt is a seasoning. A flavor enhancer. This is our role in society. To preserve and stop the rot and to move our society to be more righteous.
B. Ruined! 5:13b
1. Jesus warns however that salt can lose its saltiness. And once it does it is worthless!
a. Salt can lose it saltiness when it gets watered down.
b. If salt sits around too long unused it can lose its saltiness. It needs to be used and applied to preserve its power.
2. Salt is not worth much sitting in the salt shaker and when not applied. The same is true with Christianity.
a. It is not good enough to be salt here in this shaker (the church building).
b. We must apply our "saltiness" in the world around us to preserve the world from rot.
3. In antiquity when salt lost its saltiness it was thrown on the highways and byways to add to the paving of the roads. This was done to simply be pavement under foot. It was useless for any thing else at this point.
a. People who claim to be Christians but do not demonstrate "saltiness" in this world are considered by Christ to be "useless."
b. How "salty" are we really in this world?
ILLUS:CHARLES COLSON WROTE ABOUT THE BEWILDERING PARADOX THAT 1/3 OF ALL AMERICAN ADULTS CLAIM TO BE "BORN AGAIN." (ACCORDING TO A FAIRLY RECENT GALLOP POLL) AND YET, THESE SAME CHRISTIANS SEEM TO FAIL TO IMPACT OUR SOCIETY! OUR SOCIETY BECOMES SICKER AND MORE CORRUPT BY THE DAY. SO, IF SO MANY ARE SUPPOSE TO BE "BORN AGAIN" THEN WHERE IS THE SALTINESS? -- Source Unknown
4. We need to teach Christians what it means to REALLY be one.
a. Perhaps we emphasize too much the future rewards of heaven and don't teach enough about the responsibilities of the present for being a Christian.
b. Too many Christians in our western civilization think being a Christian is a "PRIVATE" matter. It is not!!
c. Too many Christians have adopted the mind set that it is pastors and missionaries that are suppose to impact society, not the average Christian.
ILLUS: DR. WILFRED GRENFELL, WHO RENDERED OUTSTANDING SERVICE AS A MEDICAL MISSIONARY IN LABRADOR, WAS A GUEST AT A LONDON, ENGLAND HIGH SOCIETY FUNCTION. A NUMBER OF SOCIALLY PROMINENT INDIVIDUALS HAD BEEN INVITED TO THIS DINNER. DURING THE COURSE OF THE EVENING A LADY CAME UP TO HIM AND ASKED, "DR. GRENFELL, IS IT REALLY TRUE THAT YOU ARE A MISSIONARY?" AFTER A MOMENTS' HESITATION HE ANSWERED HER WITH A QUESTION, "IS IT TRUE MADAM THAT YOU ARE NOT?" ALL CHRISTIANS ARE CALLED TO SALT THE EARTH. NOT JUST SOME!! THERE CAN BE NO EXCEPTIONS. IF WE ARE REAL CHRISTIANS ... LET THE WORLD KNOW IT. -- Source Unknown
5. The world will trample on us if we have lost our saltiness. Perhaps this explains some of the disdain the world has for those who call themselves Christians but who don't live like they really are.
III. PENETRATION (Light) 5:14-16
A. Revealing! 5:14-16a
1. Jesus' second illustration is about us being the "light of the world."
a. The purpose of light is to reveal things. To enable us to see.
b. As the "light of the world" we are to reveal the TOTAL DIFFERENCE between the darkness of this world and the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
c. Jesus mentions that "a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden." It is easy to see because it stands ABOVE the rest of the world.
d. God's people should stand a cut above this world and its standards.
2. Jesus mentions too that a light is not lit in the darkness of a home at night only to have that light placed under a bushel basket to hide it. What purpose would this serve?
a. Yet, how many Christians live this way today?
b. Do those around you really know that you are a born again Christian?
c. And if they do, do they see a TOTAL DIFFERENCE between you and the worldly people around them?
3. Lights in antiquity were placed on high standing sticks or up in places that would give off the most light possible for everyone who was in the house.
a. The light shone to everyone, without discrimination.
b. We are called to be such lights in this world.
4. Light is only good when it is not obstructed.
ILLUS:MANY ELECTRONIC FIRE ALARMS HAVE AN INTERNAL SWITCH TRIGGERED BY A BEAM OF LIGHT. AS LONG AS THE LIGHT IS RECEIVED THROUGH ONE SIDE TO THE OTHER WITHOUT BEING BROKEN, THERE IS NO ALARM. BUT IF THE BEAM OF LIGHT IS OBSTRUCTED BY PARTICLES OF SMOKE OR FOG MOISTURE, EVEN IF FOR ONLY A SPLIT SECOND, THE ALARM WILL SOUND. EVEN IF THERE IS ONLY A FEW PARTICLES OF SOOT DIMMING THAT BEAM OF LIGHT IT WILL SET OFF THE ALARM. I WONDER, IS THERE ANY PARTICLES OF DIRT BLOCKING YOUR BEAM OF LIGHT? AND IF SO, HAS YOUR ALARM GONE OFF TO WARN YOU? -- Source Unknown
5. Jesus states that in the "same way" that we put a light out for all to see, so should we live our lives as God's people, for all to see.
B. Responsibility 5:16b
1. Jesus now brings up the touchy subject of "good deeds." (Demonstration)
a. Our "good deeds" are not what saves us. It is because we are saved that we do good deeds.
b. These WILL be seen by men.
c. If those deeds are worthy of the gospel they will bring praise to God.
2. All the spiritually flowery words in the world from us about being a Christian will do nothing if our deeds don't match our words.
a. This is where much of Christianity has failed.
b. It is not the knowing of right things that we fail at ... it is the doing of those right things.
3. Almost all Christians who fail morally knew better before they failed.
4. We have trained an entire nation how to speak Christian ethics and values, but what we and the world need now is a demonstration of it.
ILLUS: TWO BROTHERS HAD TERRORIZED A SMALL TOWN FOR DECADES. THEY WERE UNFAITHFUL TO THEIR WIVES, ABUSIVE TO THEIR CHILDREN, AND DISHONEST IN BUSINESS. THE YOUNGER BROTHER DIED UNEXPECTEDLY. THE SURVIVING BROTHER WENT TO THE PASTOR OF THE LOCAL CHURCH AND SAID TO HIM, "I WANT YOU TO CONDUCT MY BROTHER'S FUNERAL. BUT IT IS IMPORTANT TO ME THAT DURING THE SERMON YOU TELL EVERYBODY MY BROTHER WAS A SAINT." THE PASTOR HOWEVER RESPONDED, "BUT HE WAS FAR FROM THAT, HOW CAN I SAY THAT?" THE BROTHER PULLED OUT HIS CHECKBOOK AND SAID, "PASTOR, I'M PREPARED TO GIVE $100,000.00 TO THE CHURCH IF YOU WILL SIMPLY SAY PUBLICLY THAT HE WAS A SAINT." ON THE DAY OF THE FUNERAL, THE PASTOR BEGAN THE EULOGY THIS WAY, "EVERYONE HERE KNOWS THAT THE DECEASED WAS A WICKED MAN, A WOMANIZER, AND A DRUNK. HE TERRORIZED HIS EMPLOYEES AND CHEATED ON HIS TAXES ... (PAUSING) ... BUT AS EVIL AND SINFUL AS THIS MAN WAS, COMPARED TO HIS OLDER BROTHER HE WAS A SAINT." NO AMOUNT OF WORDS COULD CHANGE WHAT REALITY WAS! -- Source Unknown
5. Light must be put out into the open for it to benefit others.
a. All the words about light won't help you see; only when the light is actually burning does it help anyone.
b. We can know all the scientific principles of light, how it works, how to make it, etc., but until you actually pour light on something it benefits no one!
6. God makes us lights of this world so that anyone full of darkness that comes into contact with us will have that darkness exposed. Our witness or deeds of light will expose their own dark hearts.
ILLUS: WHEN THE FAMOUS MILITARY LEADER GENERAL GORDON TRIED TO HIRE A MUSLIM AS HIS SERVANT THE MAN REFUSED AND GAVE AS HIS REASON THIS: "YOU WILL MAKE OF ME A CHRISTIAN IF I WORK FOR YOU." THE GENERAL PROMISED THE MAN THAT HE WOULD NEVER SPEAK ABOUT HIS FAITH AND RELIGION IF HE WORKED FOR HIM. STILL THE MAN REFUSED. FINALLY THE MUSLIM GAVE HIS REASON FOR REFUSING EVEN IF THE GENERAL PROMISED NOT TO EVER SPEAK ABOUT CHRIST. HE SAID, "JUST BY MY DAILY ASSOCIATION WITH YOU I WOULD BECOME A CHRISTIAN WITHOUT A WORD FROM YOU. YOUR CONDUCT SPEAKS PLAINER THAN WORDS, AND I WISH TO AVOID IT. I WILL NOT BE A CHRISTIAN." GOD GIVE TO US SUCH CHRISTIANS TODAY! -- Source Unknown
7. The "TOTAL DIFFERENCE" between the world and Christianity should be obvious to all. A differences that is noticeable in the way we life. This is God's call on all believers.
CONCLUSION: This final beatitude explains the nature of being a kingdom citizen in God's kingdom, and how it will clash with the kingdoms of this world. We can expect persecution! But we can still be "happy" because a great reward awaits us! Until then, we are called to a three-fold ministry: (1) Preservation (salt); (2) Revelation (light); and (3) Demonstration (good deeds.) We are to be TOTALLY DIFFERENT from this world. Christ makes the total difference.