Christians, and especially Christian leadership, are called to be salt and light in a dark world.
Matt. 5:13-16 "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
When the Lord tells us to be salt and light, He states both the positive and the negative. That is the way with all Scripture. We can’t just take the positive and be done with the subject. We have to consider all the ramifications of being salt and light. Salt is used to season food and make it taste good. It was and still is used as a preservative. In the same way Christians are to be salt in the world. Without the witness of Christ, without standing for the truth, life is ultimately tasteless and rotten. Anyone here who was a sinner for any length of time without the Savior knows what I am talking about. But the flip side is that salt can lose its saltiness. Christians can lose their saltiness by diluting the Gospel message to the point where it is useless. Let me give you an example of a washed out Gospel often preached in churches today. This example of a new “4 Spiritual Laws” was picked up by Gary Gilley, pastor of Southern View Chapel, at a local “evangelical” church in his area that is following the church growth model of Rick Warren and Robert Schuller.
1. God loves you and has a plan for your life.
This is exactly what it said. But how can you substitute the words “mistakes”, “decisions that don’t please God” and “bad stuff” for what the Bible calls sin? None of those words come close to stating the problem of sin, and if we do not realize we are desperately wicked and on our way to hell in sin, that Jesus Christ is our only Savior, and confess and repent of sin, we have no way to be saved. We must confess our sins and then He is faithful and just to forgive those sins. You can’t have one without the other. The Bible doesn’t even use the word “mistake” in most translations, but it uses the word “sin” to explain the condition of men 700 to over 900 times in various translations. Sin is the basis for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross so without an understanding of sin and why Jesus Christ had to come there can be no salvation. Anyone can accept this washed out, saltless “gospel”, even people in other religions without ever being saved. It draws large numbers of people, but I often say that “what people are converted with is what they are converted to”. You can be converted to something and not be saved and filled with the Holy Spirit.
We can also lose our salt by not standing for the truth of God’s Word, both in the face of the world and in the Church.
Reflecting the Light of Jesus Christ before men is a wonderful thing. When you seem someone come out of the darkness of this world and of sin and turn to the light of Jesus Christ, that is one of the most marvelous things in the world. Angels rejoice over one sinner who repents. But that light can also become dark if we hide it. Christians stand for something. We are not called to reflect the world but reflect Jesus Christ. But you will find many churches today that have invited the world into their churches and now their churches and their lives reflect the world rather than the Lord.
So we always have the blessings with the warnings stated by Jesus Christ and the Apostles and we must heed both. You cannot have the blessings unless you heed the warnings, and you can lose the blessings by not heeding the warnings. And so it is with the main passage I want to talk about in this message.
John 10:1 "I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.
Jesus Christ was addressing the Jews but what He is saying has the same ramifications for us today. There is no other way to the Father than through the Son. Any religion that claims to worship God but does not acknowledge the Son cannot lead to eternal life. Only the man who enters by the Gate, the Gate being Jesus Christ Himself, can be saved. Jesus told us that “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” The list of religions that do not acknowledge the Son as being God is long, in fact there is no religion that acknowledges the Son in His complete Godhood and sovereignty other than biblical Christianity. Even Judaism does not recognize the Son. Jesus was addressing this to the Jews.
3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
Those who follow the Lord Jesus know His voice. If you want to hear the voice of Jesus today, don’t look to feelings, experiences, intuition, voices in your head, visions, dreams. If you want to hear the voice of the Shepherd you had better dig deep into His Word. Everything must be tested and be subservient to the written eternal Word of God that is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword. The Shepherd then can lead those who hear His voice through the Word through the valleys and the mountains of life to green grass and clean waters. Notice that the Shepherd leads his sheep and they must follow. He is always there ahead of us. He knows the future. We must follow not lead, not run ahead of the Shepherd. Sheep don’t know where they are going without the Shepherd and they can easily become lost. Sheep are defenseless and not very bright animals. Good Christian leaders, following the Shepherd, will also act as good under-shepherds and feed the lambs, take care of the sheep, and feed the sheep. Remember that Jesus told Peter in John 21:15-17 to feed my lambs, take care of my sheep, feed my sheep. Christian leaders must feed the lambs the milk of the Word until they grow to maturity. They must take care of the sheep by tending to their hurts and sheering them from time to time (pruning—encouragement, admonition, rebuke). Then they must feed the growing sheep on the deeper things of the Word so they can grow to maturity in Christ. What are Christian leaders to do, according to the Word?
Eph. 4:12-14 … prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
Then the flock will know the voice of the Shepherd.
5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice."
Sheep know their Shepherd’s voice. True sheep know the voice of their Shepherd when He speaks to them. You cannot know the voice of the Shepherd unless you are in His Word and in prayer. You will not recognize His voice unless you have a relationship with Him and are walking with Him. True sheep do not go running after strangers. False sheep wander off with strangers and end up slaughtered.
7 Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.
Jesus Christ is the Gate AND He is the Shepherd. Shepherds will put their sheep in the fold at night and lay down in the only entrance to the fold, lay down in the gate, to protect the sheep from thieves and wolves. So a true shepherd literally lays his life down for his sheep. Jesus Christ is the only Gate to eternal life having laid down His life on the cross. There is only one way to life and that is through the Gate. Notice that we don’t only come to life through the Gate but we must also go out and follow the Shepherd, otherwise we will not find pasture and water and will atrophy and die. The under-shepherd should emulate Jesus’ example and be there to protect the His flock.
11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Jesus repeats this over and over again in this passage. We know Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd, but are Christian leaders also laying down their lives for the sheep? You can feed the lambs, take care of the sheep and their hurts, and feed the sheep on the meat of the Word, but if you are not willing to lay down your life for the sheep, all that good work can quickly come to nothing
12 The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.
A hired hand is a Christian leader, but when the wolves come he does not lay his life down for the sheep. He is too concerned about his reputation and his income to take a hard stand.
John 12:42-43 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.
The religious leaders in Jesus’ day had the same problems we have today. It is easy to believe when the picture is rosy, but when the chips are down, when false teachers and false prophets and their materials are flooding into the churches, when other leaders are turning away from the core doctrines of the Faith, many Christian leaders run away from the problem. They either stick their heads in the sand like an ostrich hoping they will “know nothing” about the problems, or they run away from them and don’t deal with the situation at all. But remember that wolves don’t just come in to fool the sheep in sheep’s clothing. Wolves devour the flock and eat the sheep for breakfast!
Matthew 7:15 "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
The wolves today are not so much those of cults and false religions, but of false prophets and false teachers who call themselves sheep. I am talking about most of the teachers on TBN and those of the New Apostolic Reformation, the heretical Latter Rain and Word of Faith movements. These movements have invaded the churches in one form or another with their thousands of organizations and schemes, with their music, books and videos. Christians are flocking to their events for healing or some kind of touch from God and the leadership of the churches are just letting them go. We need more Christian leaders who are not afraid of their reputations but are willing to lay down their lives on the altar for Christ, taking up their cross and following the Shepherd, and warning against false teachers—by name. Oh, we can’t do that? I have news for you. The prophets did. The apostles did. In the Old Testament Nadab, Abihu, Dathan, Abiram, Korah, Zedekiah, Hananiah, Shemiah, Jaazaniah and Petatiah. Much of the books of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah and others were devoted to prophesying against false teachers, false prophets and false brethren who were well known at the time. In the New Testament Jesus rebukes the Pharisees repeatedly. Hymaneus, Alexander, Alexander the Coppersmith, Diotrephes and Jezebel are named specifically by the Apostles to warn the Church. There are many other Scriptures that, while they do not name individuals, the individuals guilty of teaching false doctrine or living in blatant sin were well known among each congregation. In these cases, the Church in a particular area was named, and everyone knew who was being pointed out in Paul’s letters. The principle is that those we must emulate in the Bible named names and repsonsible under-shepherds must also do so when people are teaching against the core doctrines of the Faith and/or making false prophecies. You cannot equip the sheep to be discerning without tying the precepts you teach them to the individuals who are perpetrating lies and false doctrines. Rejection of heretics protects the flock and is the only mechanism whereby some heretics might be saved. Rejection of heresy is a biblical principle and if it is not applied leads to more heresy and the shipwrecking of the Faith of many sheep.
We as Christian leaders must learn to not only be good leaders in the easy times, times of feeding and help, but in times of attack. Paul told every believer that if they were standing for the truth of the Gospel and God’s Word they would suffer persecution.
2 Tim. 3:12-13 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
Evil men and imposters are the ones who do the persecuting. Mark my words. Christian will not be persecuted by the world so much as persecuted by false brethren and imposters who are going from bad to worse, deceived and, in turn, deceiving. This is what is happening today. We will be hated for the cause of Christ, for our stand on the cross, on truth. The Bible does talk about hatred from the world directed at Christians.
John 15:18 "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.
But there is also hatred from false brethren and false prophets.
Matt. 24:9-11 "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.
This time is coming and for many Christian leaders who are not giving away the farm, that time has already come. My hope and prayer is that more Christian leaders will wake up to their charge to protect God’s flock and take up their full biblical responsibility to them. The apostasy spoken of in Scripture (2 Thes. 2:3) is upon the churches and now is not a time to let our guard down. We must be discerning, testing the spirits, because many false prophets have gone out (1 John 4:1). We must judge those inside the church, for God judge those outside her (1 Cor. 5:12). We must come to Christian maturity and learn the difference between good and evil (Heb. 5:14) so that we will not be tossed about by every wind of doctrine that blows through the churches (Eph. 4:14). May we stand for the cause of Christ so that He will not be ashamed of us. Jesus said:
Luke 9:26 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
So Paul admonishes us:
2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.