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Re-Thinking Your Purpose

"The Keeper of the Spring"

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

Read Part 1

The late Peter Marshall (U. S. Senate Chaplain) used to tell this story.

"The Keeper of the Spring was a quiet forest dweller who lived high above an Austrian village along the western slopes of the Alps. The old gentleman had been hired many years ago by a young Town Council to clear away the debris from the pools of water up in the mountain crevices that fed the lovely spring flowing through their town. With faithful, silent regularity, he patrolled the hills, removed the leaves and branches, and wiped away the silt that would otherwise choke and contaminate the fresh flow of water.

By and by, the village became a popular attraction for vacationers. Graceful swans floated along the crystal clear spring, the mill wheels of various businesses located near the water turned day and night, farmlands were naturally irrigated, and the view from restaurants was picturesque beyond description.

Years passed. One evening the Town Council met for its semi-annual meeting. As they reviewed the budget, one manís eye caught the salary figure being paid the obscure Keeper of the Spring. Said the Keeper of the Purse: "Who is this old man? Why do we keep him on year after year? No one ever sees him. For all we know the strange ranger of the hills is doing us no good. He isnít necessary any longer! By unanimous vote, they dispensed with the old manís services.

For several weeks, nothing changed. By early autumn, the trees began to shed their leaves. Small branches snapped off and fell into the pools, hindering the rushing flow of sparkling water. One afternoon someone noticed a slight yellowish-brown tint in the spring. A couple of days later, the water was much darker.

Within another week, a slimy film covered sections of the water along the banks and a foul odor was soon detected. The mill wheels moved slower, and some finally ground to a halt. Swans left, as did the tourists. Clammy fingers of disease and sickness reached deeply into the village.

Quickly, the embarrassed council called a special meeting. Realizing their gross error in judgement, they hired back the old Keeper of the SpringÖ...and within just a few weeks, the veritable river of life began to clear up. The wheels started to turn, and new life returned to the hamlet in the Alps once again."

From Peter Marshallís book, "Mr. Jones, Meet the Master" (Grand Rapids, Fleming Revel, 1982 p.147-158)

Chuck Swindoll adds, "Fanciful though it may be, the story is more than an idle tale. It carries with it a vivid, relevant analogy directly related to the times in which we live. What the Keeper of the Springs meant to the village, Christian servants mean to our world. The preserving, taste-giving bite of salt mixed with the illuminating, hope giving ray of light may seem feeble and needlessÖ.but God help any society that attempts to exist without them! You see, the village without the keeper of the spring is a perfect representation of the world system without salt and light."

I. The Purpose for the People of God

Jesus our Lord preached this Sermon on the Mount in Matt. 5-7, to a race of people that God had chosen to reveal Himself to. These are the Jewish people, the descendents of Noah, Shem, Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. God had said to Abraham that through him and his descendents the whole world would be blessed, especially those who blessed Abraham and his descendents. God had intended to reveal Himself, His nature, His laws, His desires, His will, His word and His salvation to the Jews and then to bless the Jews as they honored Him, so much that the world would know that they had what it needed and would trust in the God of the Jews (1 Kings 8:42). But, much like people in America, people forgot the purpose for having been chosen by God as they sought to make a life or to survive. That purpose has been passed on from the Nation of Israel to the Church, the Bride of Christ, and the chosen of God as Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 2:9ff. As our Lord is beginning to reveal Himself as the promised Messiah, He has been calling them to repent to be ready for the Kingdom of Heaven. He then gives them 8 characteristics of the people that will be part of Godís Kingdom; in fact, they will be the only people that will be part of that Kingdom. He then reminds them of Godís purpose for them. They were supposed to be the Salt of the Earth and the Light of the World. The language implies that they are the only salt of the earth and the only light of the world. Interesting that He doesnít say, they are the milk or honey of the earth, the Egg McMuffin of the world, but the salt and light, the only salt and light. To understand what He meant, letís consider:

II. The Principle Uses of Salt and Light

Think of the all things we use salt for: melting ice and snow, making ice cream, retaining fluid (we used to be given salt tablets during basic training), help in some healing, we season our foods (what are potato chips, fries, or pop corn with out salt?), In Bible days, newborns were often rubbed with salt to cleanse them. People intentionally ate salt together to symbolize friendships, and to seal promises or covenants, as salt spoke of something long lasting, loyal, and binding. All sacrifices were to be accompanied by salt. It was considered of such value that soldiers were often paid with salt. But for all of this, the primary purpose for salt and what made it a high valued commodity, instead of a cheap condiment was that it was primarily used to retard decay. Without refrigerators, or freezers or cold pack canners, salt was the only method of preserving fish and meat for days or weeks. To this day, meat is often packed in salt before it is shipped. Symbolically salt referred to that which is wholesome and good, and vital. Paul says our speech is to be seasoned with salt (Col. 4:6); that is, it should be wholesome, and good. Even the testing of every manís works by fire that Paul refers to in 1 Cor. 3:13, our Lord Jesus refers to as being salted or purified with fire in Mark 9:49-50. Purifying, flavoring, and preserving are the primary purposes of salt. Light, helps plants to grow, but more than anything it is the primary ingredient in being able to see. As such, it guides us in dark places, helps us to see what is real, exposes things hidden by darkness, and needs to shine to be affective. Both salt and light are major influencers. One works by contact and penetration, the other, by exposure.

The Presuppositions about the World.

Apart from the influence of Godís people (originally Israel and now the Church, both universal and local), the world is dark, dangerous, and decaying. Itís only hope is the influence of Godís people. The Bible reminds us that that the human heart (not the blood pumping organ but the center of thoughts, reasoning, and decision making) is desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9). Before the great flood of Noah, God said, "that the thoughts and intents of manís heart were only evil continuously." (Gen. 6:5). Paul says in Philippians 2:15, "Öthat you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world." Literally, the world is crooked, listen to Romans 1:18-32, " For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible manóand birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality,[a] wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving,[b] unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

Paul reminds us that Satan has blinded the minds of the lost so they canít see the light of God (2 Cor. 4:4), but God wants believers to open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light (Acts 26:18). Again in Ephesians 5:8, "you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, Walk (or live) as children of light." In fact, while He could send angels, or just speak into everyoneís life, He has chosen to use those whom have seen the light in Jesus, to be the ones to show and tell the truth of that light to those who are still in darkness. Last week we saw that America was established on the commands, teachings and principles of the Bible. But for over 50 years now America has turned away from God and turned to other gods or philosophies of life that do not include God. Unless America changes and returns to God He will surely, in keeping with His word, judge us. God has chosen for us, His people, His church to be intentional in checking the corruption of the world where we live, if we donít influence our country and our world, it will decay completely. His people, His children are His only means of communicating righteousness and hope to people in darkness. But!

IV. The Potential Problems of Godís People. Two are stated.

A. Salt loses it flavor. Salt can not, not be salt. Salt crystals can not lose its flavor, but salt can be contaminated with other minerals like gypsum, thus making it ineffective for preserving meat and leaving a horrible taste in the mouth. Contaminated salt has no useful purpose Ė none! It is good for nothing.

B. Light is hidden. We close the doors and curtains, or put a lid over our light so that no one benefits from it because no one sees it. The others in the neighborhood, or in the house, have to try to find their own light or just stumble in the darkness. Lost things wonít be found.

C. How do we lose our saltiness or hide our lights? Here are a few ways:

1. We remain in the salt shaker or under a bushel. That is, we will be ineffective if we are not where the decay is happening, or the darkness is prevailing. We canít make a difference huddled in the buildings we call churches, which is all we are doing if we believe that being a Christian is just going to church. But many just want church to be a little country club with members joining for fun and fellowship, fulfilling a religious duty, but not to change the world.

2. We reverse the process, that is, we allow the world to influence and penetrate us rather than us penetrating the world. How do we do that? We do that by adopting the worldís philosophies and isms and world view, rather than Godís. John warns us of this in 1 John 2:15-17, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the worldóthe lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of lifeóis not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. God warns the people of Isaiahís day, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own sight!" (Isa. 5:20-21) When the worldís views of a marriage as a man and a woman, is replaced by the new world view of same sex marriages, or when the place of a covenant marriage is replaced with living together or when the permanence of marriage is replaced with divorce for any reason, we are influenced by the world. When churches and pastors endorse the ending of the lives of the unborn. When me, myself, and I are the center of our thoughts and not the needs of those around us. When an intimate relationship with the living God is replaced with religion. When materialism, money, and the desire for more, bigger, better is the drive of my life instead of ministering as Jesus in our world. When my appetites for sex, pleasure, and toys are more important than the poor, helpless, and hopeless. When we are afraid to tell people about Jesus for fear they wonít like us OR even that it may affect my job or lifestyle we become useless. When we are afraid to trust and obey God and live by faith. When we care more about what people think about us than what God thinks about us. When we trust in ourselves and not in God for our security and future we have embraced the isms of our world and have become indistinguishable from the world and therefore, totally ineffective as salt and light..

3. When the sins of the world and our old lifestyles are still manifested in us, like foul language, course jokes, lying, justifying immoral behavior, drinking, drugging, cheating on our taxes, being self righteous, un-forgiving, angry, vengeful, un-submissive to authority, we are totally ineffective as salt and light.

4. When we do not practice unity among ourselves or other Churches, because we major on minor issues, we demonstrate that we canít even love each other much less the world and we have nothing to offer. Did not our Lord tell us that our love for each other and our unity would be the identifying marks of following Him (John 13:34-35; 17:21-23)? The world is waiting to see that we have something authentic and real to offer and if they donít see it, they wonít want it and we are ineffective. Our light is hidden, and our salt is tainted and we are not the Keepers of the Springs.

V. The Plan of God

Is simple and it has never changed. God would redeem lost and hopeless people and bless their lives with forgiveness and grace. He would change them from caterpillars to butterflies; then these redeemed and changed people would see the truth about God and about people and know that Godís purpose for their lives would be to show and tell the world how to have their lives redeemed and changed. Being born again, includes learning how to live life all over again from a new perspective; that is, the born again person stops living for self and starts living for the glory of God and the good of others. Listen to 1 Peter 2:9-12: "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. God told Paul the reason he was chosen and rescued in Acts 26:16-18, and it is the same as Jesus is saying here in Matthew 5:13-16, "But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. 17 I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now[a] send you, 18 to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.í Next time, we will outline for you specific ways you can influence your world for Jesus and perhaps help to lead America back to trusting God and following Jesus Christ. Letís close our time by asking God to search or hearts. Would you do that?

  • Why do I attend church? Do I come because it is a duty, to feel good or because I want to learn Godís word so I can help change the world? Be honest.
  • Am I influencing the world for Jesus or has the world influenced me? Do I base my ideas, and standards of wrong and right on relativism or the absolute truth of the Bible?
  • Are there any remaining characteristics of my B.C. life still being evidenced in my words and actions?
  • Am I somehow showing mercy to the poor, helpless, and hopeless in my community and world?
  • Can the world see the unity and love of Christ in my love for my Lordís church and His followers everywhere?
  • Do I need to repent and re-dedicate myself to my purpose of being His salt and light? Am I willing to do that right now?
  • Are you lost? Do you need to receive Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord? You can do that right now. Letís all pray together.

If these sermons have helped you to walk closer to God or if you have any questions about anything you have read, would you write to me and let me know. Thanks.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman