ARE YOU LISTENING?
"Salt is excellent. But if the salt goes flat, it's useless, good for nothing. Are you listening, really listening?" Luke 14:34 (The Message).
Apart from its preserving and flavouring function, salt plays another important role in the rituals of Jewish religious life. The salt ceremony is part of a Jewish wedding. Bride and groom each bring a small amount of salt which is poured into a bag and shaken together. These words are spoken as the salt is shaken, 'What God has joined together let no man separate,' symbolising the unbreakable union between husband and wife.
Perhaps Jesus was referring to both of these functions when He mentioned salt in His teaching. In the context of what He was talking about, an 'unsalty' disciple is one who started out with Jesus, found the going difficult and pulled out after a while because he had not really taken time to count the cost. He lost his flavour and became unprofitable in the kingdom of God.
But what about the union that had been forged between him and Jesus, as binding and unbreakable as a marriage covenant? Perhaps this is the heart of the issue Jesus is talking about here. Divorce may dissolve a marriage legally but it never obliterates the union of two people, contracted by their vows and consummated by their physical union.
In the same way, when a person becomes espoused to Jesus through a faith-union that is consummated by the power of the Holy Spirit, he enters into an unbreakable covenant with Him, sealed by His blood shed on the cross. To renounce that covenant and to break that union is to become as worthless as unsalty salt.
The writer to the Hebrews recognises how futile such a life becomes. "It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance because, to their loss, they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting Him to public disgrace." Hebrews 6:4-6 (NIV).
And so Jesus pleads, 'Are you listening, really listening?'
How easy it is to 'sign on' when the preacher paints a rosy picture of 'sins forgiven and a free passage to heaven' but neglects to tell the whole story. There is an attitude that pervades both the world and the church - 'no fear of God,' said the Apostle Paul. How seriously do we take Jesus' words? Isn't that the essence of fearing God?
God is invisible but real. His presence fills both heaven and earth. He is here, now, always, but how seriously do we take Him and what He has written? The Jews of Jesus' day chose to ignore His words and found, to their terrible loss, that He was right and they were wrong. In AD 70, Jerusalem was overrun by the Romans, reduced to rubble and burnt to the ground because they chose not to listen.
And so Jesus says to you and to me, 'Are you listening, really listening?' It pays to listen. If Jesus was wrong, we lose nothing. If He was right, we lose everything. If He was right about His own death and resurrection, is there any reason to doubt Him when He warns us that we cannot be His disciple on our own terms?
But the alternative is unthinkable. Not to follow Jesus is to consign ourselves to the eternal trash heap because 'He who has the Son had life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.' 1 John 5:12 (NIV). Bottom line!
But the choice is still yours!
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