September 2020

The G.O.A.T., 27 September 2020

GOAT: Greatest of All Time
Series—Mark: The Real Jesus
Mark 9:33-37

Series Big Idea: Mark’s gospel is the most concise biography of Jesus.

Big Idea: Jesus is the Greatest of All Time, though the path to greatness is a paradox.

There’s a lot of discussion lately about the GOAT: the greatest of all time. In basketball, the debate is LeBron James versus Michael Jordan. In football, Brady or Manning. Hockey fans can’t agree on Gretsky or Hull. Debates rage in soccer over Renaldo or Messi. Golfers argue over Woods or Nicholas.

Muhammad Ali was never shy about being called “the Greatest.” He was not only a great boxer, he is considered by many to be the most important athlete of the 20th century. He was named the Sports Personality of the Century by the BBC and became a legend in and outside of the boxing ring.

Just before takeoff on an airplane flight, the stewardess reminded Ali to fasten his seat belt. “Superman don’t need no seat belt,” replied Ali. Legend has it that the stewardess retorted, ”Superman don’t need no airplane.”

H.G. Wells said, “I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”

I doubt I would have trouble convincing most of you that Jesus Christ is the greatest human of all time. But who’s next? Who’s the second-greatest human in history? What about in the Bible?

Today we’re returning to the book of Mark, the shortest gospel or “good news” of Jesus Christ. It’s a fascinating biography of the Messiah, and our text today speaks volumes about true greatness.

In the eighth chapter of Mark, it is said of Jesus…

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. (Mark 8:31)

Jesus predicts his death. It is so clear that Peter rebukes Jesus which results in a teaching moment for Jesus! A few verses later…

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34)

These are not easy words…and I’m not convinced anything has changed. To follow the world, we can pursue happiness, money, sex, power, and pleasure…but following Jesus means the death of our sinful, false self. It means surrender and sacrifice. Paul connects Jesus’ example to our calling.

And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Corinthians 5:15)

Jesus continues…

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.
(Mark 8:35)

This is known as a paradox—“a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true,” Whoever wants to save their life will lose it. Whoever loses their life for Jesus will save it. Missionary and martyr Jim Elliot famously said,
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. (Mark 9:30-32)

This is the second time Jesus predicts his death in the book of Mark. The disciples were clueless, but Jesus is teaching them about greatness. He’s the greatest, and yet his mission is not to be served, but to serve.

Don’t you wish our politicians could try this?!

Our passage for today, Mark 9:33-37, begins…

They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. (Mark 9:33-34)

Jesus hears them arguing, which is never a good sign! When he confronts them, they probably tried to change the subject! They know they’ve been caught in the act!

Numbers 32:23 says, “be sure that your sin will find you out.” It’s one thing that they’re arguing. It’s another that they’re arguing about who’s the greatest.

It should be noted that God isn’t always fair. It’s not fair that some are born into great wealth and comfort while others have refugee parents. It’s not fair that some are born with natural beauty while others have less-attractive features. It’s not fair that some are born in this great country with freedoms and liberties while others are monitored 24/7 like lab rats by their government.

Likewise, it’s not fair that Jesus picked twelve to be his special followers. It’s not fair that Peter, James, and John were in Jesus’ inner circle, privileged with unique opportunities. It’s believed that John was Jesus’ favorite among the three. Maybe this was the topic of conversation that Jesus overheard. What we know for sure is Jesus was not pleased with this argument, though it’s a debate that rages to this day. Who’s the greatest? Whose rank or status in society is at the top? It’s no secret that there are the rich, famous, and powerful on one extreme and the sick, poor, disabled, homeless, foreigner on the other. It’s human nature to pre-judge based upon what we see, whether it’s a shiny, new sports car or worn-out shoes with holes in them.

I’m guessing the argument was not about who was the greatest among the Roman leaders. They probably weren’t conversing about the greatest athletes in the upcoming Olympic Games. No, my guess is they were all trying to one-up one another, comparing stories of encounters with Jesus to see who he loved the most.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said,
“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)

Mic drop! Here’s another paradox, another radical, revolutionary, counter-cultural declaration. In our world today, alternative has become another word for cool, edgy, trendy, and different. The ultimate alternative lifestyle is following Jesus. It’s extreme, outrageous, …and oh so rewarding! It’s not the pathway to comfort and pleasure, but the peace of Christ from an obedient relationship with him is priceless. When you don’t have to pretend and wear masks to cover up your flaws, when you don’t have to worry about pleasing people because you’re pleasing God, when you don’t worry about—well, anything—that’s the road to contentment. Servanthood is the pathway to true satisfaction.

For many of this, this statement of Jesus to serve almost sounds cliché, but imagine the Creator of the universe washing your feet! Imagine the Son of God dying for you! Imagine the greatest human in history loving you with a perfect, unconditional love!

If we’re honest, we all want to be great. We’re conditioned that fame and fortune will lead to happiness, though history proves that lie! We want to be in control. We lust after power. We want it our way. We like to be served, admired, complimented, and praised. But Jesus says if you want to be great—if you want to be first—you must be last, you must serve, you must die to your self, your pride, your will…and seek first God’s Kingdom.

Greatness is not about power.
Greatness is not about possessions.
Greatness is not about position or prestige or performance or any other p-word!

Greatness is a humble servant, dying to self, obeying God, loving well.

By the way, Christians love the idea of being a servant…until they’re treated like one! Are you living as a servant or king/queen? Are you seeking a cross or a throne?

It’s interesting to note Jesus sits when he teaches, the opposite of our culture where the teacher stands and the students sit. In Jesus’ day, the teacher sat as they were worthy of respect. This small detail underscores the significance of Jesus’ words. He is deliberating teaching them something very important.

What follows is no coincidence. It is the “so what” of his brief teaching.

He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” (Mark 9:36-37)

This was scandalous! In the culture, children were not cute, idolized creatures who were spoiled with extravagant birthday parties, designer clothes, and expensive video games. Children were nothing more than a nuisance. They were to be seen and not heard. In the original language, the word “child” could also mean “servant.” This is another example of the extraordinary Kingdom of God. This child has nothing to offer. They don’t have money. They don’t have power. They don’t have connections. They can’t produce with physical labor. Yet Jesus welcomes them.

Jesus values hospitality—welcoming the stranger, the powerless, the other. He serves those who should be serving him. He died for the very ones—you and me—who deserved death. He sees every human as a masterpiece.


One of my favorite things about First Alliance Church is its growing diversity. We have people of all different shapes and sizes, colors and creeds, education and ethnicity. Everyone is welcome.

I found a sign that said,

We welcome
All races and ethnicities
All religions
All countries of origin
All gender identities
All sexual orientations
All abilities and disabilities
All spoken languages
All ages

Here’s how Paul said:

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (Colossians 3:11)

That’s the message of Jesus. All are welcome. All saints. All sinners. We don’t celebrate sin, of course, but we recognize we all sin, we all fall short of God’s glory, we all need His amazing grace and forgiveness, He so loved the whole world that He sent Jesus.

I’m glad you are different than me. This world can only handle one Kirk Schneemann!

I’m thrilled we are all different. We can learn from one another. We can learn patience by being with one another! We can learn new skills, new ideas, and new perspectives through doing life together. I need you. I really do! You need me. That’s family!

This past week Heather and I watched a documentary called The Social Dilemma. It exposes the manipulation of social media to feed us information just like those things we click. If you watch YouTube videos about fishing, they will recommend other videos about fishing. If you click on fake news about the earth being flat, suddenly other conspiracy theories will be presented to you. If you are a progressive, you’ll be encouraged to consume more news and media that support left-leaning ideology. The filmmakers of this documentary present a compelling argument that our nation is divided because we never hear from the other side, whether it’s a different cable news channel, a different set of Facebook posts, or a different type of podcast.

Tragically, this is nothing new. Decades ago in 1955, Donald McGavran promoted the homogeneous unit principle, the idea that, “Men like to become Christians without crossing racial, linguistic, or class barriers.” In other words, we need white churches for white people, black churches for black people, fancy churches for rich people, etc. It’s a good marketing strategy, but a terrible expression of faith. Revelation tells us twice that every nation, tribe, people, and language is included in God’s plan for humanity. Jesus prayed that we would be one, united family (John 17). Only satan could bring about the division, the injustice, the hatred that exists both inside and outside the church today.

Next month we’re doing a sermon series along with some other area churches called The Great Divide. In God’s Kingdom, age is not an issue, as evidenced by Jesus’ love for children. In God’s Kingdom, politics is not an issue. It’s all about King Jesus, not a donkey or elephant. In God’s Kingdom, ethnicity is not an issue. We’re all part of the human race, all created in the image of God with dignity, value, and worth, no matter your skin color, national citizenship, zip code, or language.

It sounds so basic, so simple, so obvious, yet time and time again I hear about people—often pastors—who fail to value or sometimes even recognize the “other.” Every person you meet this week is a masterpiece! That includes those noisy kids that are going stir-crazy from staring at computer screens all day. That includes the person with the cardboard sign, the annoying co-worker, the harsh boss, the nagging spouse, the lunatic driving 70 on the Trail, and yes, those politicians you despise from the other party.

For the record, I still content Michael Jordan is the GOAT, the greatest of all time in the game of basketball. If you disagree, I can respect that. But the ultimate GOAT, the greatest human of all time is undeniably Jesus the Messiah. His teaching was great. His example was great. His love was great. His death and resurrection were great. Thousands of years later, he remains the most powerful, most influential person in history.

We love him—and others— because he first loved us.
We serve others because he served us.
We are hospitable and welcome the stranger because he welcomes us into his family.
We die to ourselves so we can live as new creations.

Jesus is the greatest, and he is worthy of our praise and worship, both in word and deed, all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind, all of our strength.

Family, be great! Humbly serve. Extend hospitality. Love well. It’s the Jesus way to live.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Beyond 2020: Vision Sunday, 20, September 2020

Beyond 2020: Vision Sunday

Big Idea: God is leading us to multiply and do life together.

On September 15, 2019, I presented a message entitled, Back to our Roots: 2020 Vision. Like many pastors across the country, I shared my excited about the year ahead, our new mission statement, and our commitment to The Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus Christ. With our experimental Dinner Church taking off, new people were joining our church family, lives were being transformed, ministries were growing, unity was rising, …and then COVID.

Like many of you, I was concerned about the physical impact of the pandemic. To date, about 200,000 USAmericans have died because of this invisible virus and millions more sick. The lockdown created a devastating financial impact to many, though some actually benefitted through $1200 checks and extra unemployment payments. Our entertainment options were virtually eliminated unless it involved a screen.

My prayer during the initial days of COVID-19 was, “LORD, may this pandemic bring revival in our nation and world. May people fall to their knees, crying out for help, and seeking life in Jesus-centered churches. We are ready to share faith, hope, and love and this is the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be salt and light, to live out your mission to seek and save the lost.”

Instead of seizing the opportunity to BE the church, “politics and social unrest have divided congregations and social media has intensified the hostilities,” to quote Lifeway Research. Here are three responses to their survey of pastors:

“People’s attitudes have split very much on partisan lines. Half the church is opposed to any reopening. Half the church is frustrated that we haven’t long since reopened.”

“I am aware that people are growing weary of the entire pandemic. Some are scared to death, while others are convinced it is a hoax. Trying to minister to both ends of the spectrum is exhausting.”

“Many of our congregants are still scared and unwilling to come out of their houses. No matter what we choose to do for safety, or choose not do, we are told by some group that it is too much/not enough.”

I’d like to think First Alliance Church would be the exception, but we’ve had our fair share of division, mumbling and complaining, rebellion, and some even leaving the church. It’s as if the very opportunity to love well and fulfil our mission has been a season of negativity, abandonment, controversy, and division.

We can’t let the enemy win! There are lives at stake! There are eternities at stake! Our city and state and nation are at stake! I’m not talking about the election. I’m talking about you and me, fixing our eyes on Jesus, lifting our arms in surrender, listening to the still, small voice of the LORD, using our hands to heal, our wallets to bless, our hearts to care, and our lives to love.

Through all of this, I’ve never been more excited about the future of First Alliance. The opportunities have been growing. God has been moving. And I can’t wait to share what’s ahead!

I love First Alliance Church. God has been moving in and through this congregation for generations. We have a rich heritage, a storied history, and an exciting future. When I was interviewed for the lead pastor position in the summer of 2015, I was told, “We want change,” which I knew was not entirely true! Change can be difficult, yet it’s often necessary.

I remember being asked repeatedly during my first days here, “What’s your vision for First Alliance, pastor?” At the time, I had no vision. I didn’t even know where I was! It took a solid year just to realize I wasn’t in Ann Arbor anymore! Throughout these nearly five years, I’ve rejoiced as we’ve welcomed new members and new believers. I’ve celebrated countless wins with our staff, elders, and all of you. I’ve been deeply saddened when people have left…some due to death, others to relocation, and still others due to a different vision.

Throughout this half-decade, we’ve sought direction, protection, passion, and unity as we look to Jesus, our Senior Pastor, to guide us. This is His Church! We’re all going to leave it someday, but he will be here for future generations, LORD-willing. He promised to build his Church and said the gates of hell would not overcome it (Matthew 16:18).

During my time in Toledo, it has been my desire to develop a mission, vision, and strategy for First Alliance that would bring clarity, focus, and alignment for us. Setting aside personal preferences,
where is Jesus leading us?

By definition, Jesus doesn’t lead us to stay the same. Personal growth is hard. It is incremental, over time, with people, and for people. There are growing pains. We find ourselves challenged, pushed beyond what we believe to be our limits, and even feel alone, at times.

The same is true for First Alliance.
Jesus is leading us to new places with an unchanging message. Change can be hard, especially when it disrupts our comfort. He is raising up an army of love, not a tribe of beach bums (I love the beach, but the only thing that grows at the beach is your waistline!)! I know many of us long for the good old days—which, by the way, were never as good as we remember them. But God is doing a new thing. He is expanding our vision. He is clarifying our mission. He is building His Church…and you’re invited!

One of the most exciting moments this year came on February 13 when Dr. Bruce Terpstra, director of Church Advance for the Great Lakes District of the Christian & Missionary Alliance, a member of Rev. Thomas George’s team, offered to be my mentor and coach. He suggested a book called
Church Unique as a tool in discerning our unique calling as a church. Toledo is filled with great churches. It has several Alliance churches. But where is God leading First Alliance Church?

Coincidentally—or not—I started using the book a few years ago and even introduced many of our leaders to its questions in a quest to better understand our community—our “Jerusalem”—(Acts 1:8) as well as our church history and present resources and opportunities. Many of you contributed to the process and I’m grateful for all of your input.

One of the first milestones of the process was developing a mission statement which was introduced last year:

We are a Jesus-centered family who?
restoring God’s masterpieces
in Toledo and beyond
for His glory. (Ephesians 2:10) why?

The bottom line is God’s glory. Period. End of story. It’s not about being a big church or a famous church or having the coolest website in the world, it’s about Christ. It’s not about my preferences or your convenience, but it’s all about Jesus. The unique phrase of our mission is taken from Ephesians 2:10…

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10, NLT)

You are a masterpiece. You were made by God, for God, and for God’s glory. Like me, the brilliance that reflects God’s image is covered with sin…which we cover with masks. When we get vulnerable and allow God to chisel away the false self, the masterpiece inside is exposed, the diamond in the rough is able to shine.

That’s what we’re about as a church—helping people take off the masks, repent of their sins, and live into the unique masterpiece God created them to become. That includes me. That includes you. It’s a long, slow, messy process called sanctification, but the end result is stunning.

Everything we do must be with this in mind. Our budget, our facilities, our staff, and our calendar are designed with this in mind.

Although the pandemic has been tragic in many ways—including my arms which are aching from not being able to squeeze my granddaughter as she prepares to be a big sister next month—it has also been a gift for our future. During the lockdown, our physical campus closed and as we moved everything online, it provided a perfect opportunity to assess everything we put on the calendar and its connection to our mission. It has been a time to start new things, restart other things, and leave some things behind, not because they’re bad, but because they don’t optimally serve our mission.

Life Together

About twenty-five years ago, I was at a conference where the speaker asked, “If your church couldn’t gather together for six months, how would you survive?” He had no idea COVID-19 would make that hypothetical question real!

Scholars believe the early church did life together in groups of 30-40 people with no buildings, no professional Christians, persecution…and they exploded in numbers! Much like the Church in China and other parts of the world today, there was no organized religion. It was just life together, 24/7/365. Discipleship wasn’t a class or a program, but a life-on-life experience.

Many churches will close permanently because of the pandemic. The ones that have been most effective were structured no around buildings and large gatherings, but small groups doing life together. That has included doing church online together.

I love our beautiful campus. I’m grateful for this fantastic building and our other two facilities. I am thankful for the freedom we have to assemble here for weekly family reunions…but the building is not the church. This event is not the church. We are the church…wherever and whenever we gather.

I’ve been so encouraged by people who have said they feel more connected to First Alliance now than before COVID-19. As we’ve gathered online, sent letters of encouragement, prayed for one another, served one another, eaten in homes with one another, and called one another, we’ve discovered the joy of life together.

I wish the pandemic was over and we could be guarantee safe gatherings for everyone, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. It’s possible things will get worse before they get better. But the church has never been a building. The building is nothing more than a tool used to accomplish God’s mission for His church.

Out of respect for our senior saints who have been together for decades at 9 AM, we have restarted their Sunday School class at 9 AM in the Youth Center. But I want to suggest a slightly different next-step for the rest of you…
Life Groups.

I really want to call them Life Together Groups, but that’s awkward! Rather than a class where you take notes for an hour, a Life Group is a 168 hour/week family. Many of you have been a part of small groups in the past, and this isn’t necessarily different, but the focus is not just a weekly meeting, but life together. They can meet on Sundays at 9 AM on our campus, in homes in the evening, at coffee shops or schools or wherever and whenever the group wants to study the Bible together, pray for one another, and serve together. If the focus of First Alliance is on an hour a week, we will be spiritually malnourished. If we can conceive of doing life together, discipleship will become a way of life.

We’ve often talked about the triangle: connecting with God (up), one another (in), and our world (out). Life Groups do all three. They are committed to worship, prayer, and scripture. They engage in life-on-life discipleship. They also serve together, whether it’s once a month at Cherry Street Mission as Jerry Olah’s group has done or helping a neighbor in need, hosting a Dinner Church gathering when we resume them, or any number of selfless activities to bless others.

There’s one other component of Life Groups which is vital and that leads to our other word for the day…


The first command of the Bible is “be fruitful and multiply.” Healthy things grow and reproduce. In recent history, much church activity has centered around addition…getting people to come to classes, services, concerts, conferences, and events. That’s great, but what’s even more powerful than addition is multiplication.

The Great Commission is one of our guiding scriptures.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Jesus said to go and make disciples. Discipleship is making disciples. It is a follower. Disciples of Jesus—by definition—make disciples. It’s easy to see how he did it. He called a dozen men to live with him for three years. Most of us don’t have that luxury—though parents, you have about eighteen years to disciple your children.

My favorite verse on discipleship is in 2 Timothy 2:2 where Paul says to his apprentice, Timothy…

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2)

There are four generations in this one verse! Paul to Timothy to reliable people to others. We are all called to make disciples who make disciples. This isn’t a pastor or clergy thing. It’s all of our calling, and it’s what restoring God’s masterpieces is all about…reproducing the life of Jesus in others.

Each Life Group has a leader and an apprentice leader for the purpose of multiplying the group. We want Life Groups to welcome new members, grow, and reproduce. An apprentice leader will receive training, experience, and be equipped to either start a new Life Group or take over the group as the leader launches a new Life Group. We will provide training for Life Group leaders and apprentices.

Groups often fear multiplication because they like to be together. However, without reproducing new groups, we can never grow. We need to develop new leaders who can launch new groups to disciple more people. The best way to develop new leaders is to have them serve as apprentice leaders with the intention of someday leading their own group. When Life Groups multiply, there’s no rule that says they can’t get together to serve…or just have a party!

We want to start—and restart—Life Groups this fall. To do so, we need Life Group leaders and apprentices. No experience necessary! A love for Jesus and a love for people is required. We’ll provide the resources. Being a leader or apprentice does not necessarily obligate you to be a host, either. We’d love to see some of you open your homes or offices to host Life Groups. You can have them here on our church campus, too.

A simple next step is to
click here to say you’re interested in hosting, leading, apprenticing, or participating in a Life Group. You can also notify the church office. If you’re already in a Life Group, please let us know that, too. We’d love to see everyone in our First Alliance family connected not only on Sunday morning but throughout the week, too.

This idea of multiply is critical for our future. If we fail to multiply Life Groups…and leaders, ministries, and even churches, we will eventually cease to exist.

I’ve been praying for a future filled with the launch of new groups, churches, ministries, and international workers. To accomplish this, we need interns, residents, and apprentice leaders who can not only assist, but prepare to lead.

The Road Ahead

John Maxwell says everything rises and falls on leadership. I want to devote the rest of my life to developing leaders. I may not be the most skilled, but after thirty years of vocational ministry—and plenty of gray hair—I at least have some experience. I want to equip the next generation of pastors, church planters, and missionaries, both local and global. We’ve had interns in the past who have gone on to do great things, and we want more.

I’m really grateful for our staff. Karen Thompson is more than a secretary. She’s our office manager. Sue Trumbull’s dedication to children and families and Hayden Bewley’s work with our youth and artists is inspiring. Josh Hens continues to take care of our physical campus along with our Trustees, and our newest team member, Abby Kolinski, has been our digital storyteller online and on video. Most of their work has been done behind-the-scenes, yet they are all committed to serving you, equipping you and your family, and restoring God’s masterpieces.

I’m excited to announce the Great Lakes District has connected us to someone the elders interviewed last week to be a church planter in residence. He has a compelling vision for fresh expressions of faith and plans to move here this fall from the east coast to join our team part-time, with funds provided by church planting, the District, a possible grant, and a generous donor. His passion is to multiply disciples of Jesus Christ, restoring God’s masterpieces.

Last week you heard about Abby Segura, the new director of the After School Klub. I’m thrilled about her hiring by Toledo Urban Impact to invest in the next generation.

As we read many of your responses to the
Church Unique questions, it was obvious that ministering to students in this neighborhood is near and dear to your hearts. Rosa Parks, the After School Klub, and Sports & Arts Camp were frequently mentioned as significant ministries…and we’ve been invited into an opportunity which may involve them all!

We’ve been invited to host Toledo Public School students, assisting them with their school work, serving them lunch, and providing a loving atmosphere for learning. The schools are coming to church! Details are being finalized, but we need volunteers to invest in the next generation…through the After School Club, these new Community Learning Centers, and Kids Worship which we want to launch during the Sunday sermon.

So What?

Please prayerfully consider joining, leading, hosting, or apprenticing a Life Group.

Please prayerfully consider volunteering with our students, whether it’s Sunday mornings during the sermon, with the After School Klub next month, supporting Rosa Parks Elementary, or through the upcoming Community Learning Center.

Next Sunday at 10 AM, we will have a brief membership meeting to elect two members to the Nominating Committee. If you are an official church member, we urge you to notify the office of any names you would like submitted for the election to the Nominating Committee. The elders have already appointed Rich Bradish and Greg Papp to join me in preparing the ballot for 2021 officers.

Family, these are crazy times, but they’re not unprecedented. We just haven’t seen them in our lifetime. As the world around is gets more chaotic, I pray they will seek truth…the Way, the Truth, and the Life…Jesus Christ! We are a family centered on Jesus, all about His glory, doing life together, reproducing disciples and groups to let the world know Jesus is LORD.

Please pray for First Alliance Church. Pray that we faithfully follow Jesus. Pray for passion, unity, direction, and protection. Pray for our staff and elders as we navigate through these foggy, messy days and remain focused on our mission to restore God’s masterpieces. They’re all around us. They are increasingly fearful, desperate, and needy. They live without faith, hope, and love. They are the reason we are here. He is the reason we are here!

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Salt & Light, 6 September 2020

Salt & Light
Matthew 5:13-16

Big Idea: Jesus follows the beatitudes with a vision for the Church to be salt and light to our sinful world.

Last Sunday we finished our series on the Beatitudes, the blessings announced by Jesus in the fifth chapter of Matthew. Today we’re going to look at the next four verses which continue his famous Sermon on the Mount, a message delivered on a hill near the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus offers a vision for us—his followers—and in doing so an invitation to participate in his redemption and renewal of all things.

Our world is in trouble. I know, that’s hardly news! In fact, it has been in trouble since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden thousands of years ago. You don’t need the Internet or even a TV to know sin is rampant, our enemy satan is on the move, and we see evidence daily of his schemes to steal, kill, and destroy.

At the same time, God is on the move, too. Chronicles of Narnia fans know Aslan is on the move! We’ve been enlisted in God’s army to be soldiers of love, makers of peace, examples of joy, mediators of mercy, and agents of redemption.

To refresh our memories of what Jesus has spoken, here’s a review of the beatitudes from the New Living Translation:

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are humble,
for they will inherit the whole earth.
6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
for they will be satisfied.
7 God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
for they will see God.
9 God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. (Matthew 5:3-10)

Remember, these are not instructions to follow, but announcements of the reality of the Kingdom of God, now and in the future. After elaborating on the blessing that comes from persecution, Jesus says,

“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 underfoot. (Matthew 5:13)

What’s the first thing you think of when salt is mentioned? French fries? Icy roads in the winter? Ocean water in your mouth? A doctor’s orders to reduce it in your diet?

Salt is a necessary ingredient in life. It serves many purposes, but in the context of this text,
the purpose of salt is preserving.

Imagine a world without freezers, refrigerators, or even dry ice. If you’ve ever been to the Middle East, you know natural ice is hard to find! If you purchased a piece of meat at the market, it would not last long in the hot sun. The best way to ensure it didn’t go bad was to use salt. The purpose wasn’t to melt snow or even to make food taste better, but rather to keep it from spoiling.

Our world is spoiling. It is decaying. We hear about death, destruction, and despair daily. We are on a mission from God to preserve God beautiful creation. This includes the physical planet, yes, but also the message and mission of Jesus…seeking and saving the lost, the renewal of all things, sharing good news in word and deed, representing God and embodying His goodness, holiness, grace, and justice in the world.

Salt is useless in the salt shaker.

My grandma used to collect salt and pepper shakers. They were fun to look at, especially a pair of pigs with magnetic noses that stuck together. I loved that as a kid.

While salt shakers may be decorative, their real value is what they contain…salt. Salt itself is useless unless it is distributed, unless it exits the shaker and makes contact with meat or whatever it is preserving.

When Jesus said we are the salt of the earth, the original language seems to indicate he was speaking of the literal earth, the land of Israel. His mission included the Jewish people. Jesus was a Jewish rabbi. Part of our mission is to reach out to the Jews and help them see Jesus as Messiah. They don’t have to give up their Jewishness, but rather embrace Yeshua—Jesus—as LORD. The Messianic Jewish movement that resurfaced about fifty years ago is actively becoming salt among the people of Israel and continuing the mission of Christ.

Now Jesus turns his attention to light.

You are the light of the world. A town built 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 others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

The purpose of light is visibility. Everything is invisible in total darkness, but light shines brightest in the dark.

We all understand this. The reason we turn off the lights in a movie theater is to make the light of the film more visible. I’ve never been to a drive-in movie theater at noon!

Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12). He declared,

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

In the next chapter of John, he says it again.

While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:5)

When predicting his own death,

Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them. (John 12:35-36)

A few verses later Jesus said,

I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. (John 12:46)

Since Adam and Eve at the fruit, this world has been in a state of darkness. It desperately needs light. The Bible and ancient world saw light as related to truth, knowledge, revelation, and love. It describes the good things we do. You might know John 3:16, but listen to what follows:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. (John 3:16-21)

Jesus is the light of the world. When we follow him, when we re-present him, we offer light in the darkness. I like to say that we are called to be the moon. I’ve often been amazed at the brightness of the moon on a clear night. It not only lights up the sky, it lights up the earth! A full moon away from the electric lights of a city is especially vibrant. In some instances, you don’t even need a flashlight!

We are not the light, in and of ourselves. We shine the light of Jesus. We reflect the light. We are containers of the light as the Holy Spirit dwells within us. I like to think of us as the moon because the closer the moon is to the light and the more focused and aligned, the brighter it will shine.

If you and I are close to Jesus, we will shine brightly. Our lives will pierce the darkness. The enemy won’t stand a chance!

St. John of the Cross, a 16th century Spanish priest and poet, wrote about light and darkness. He pictured our physical bodies as stained-glass windows through which the interior presence of God shines…Christ in us, the hope of glory. His divine light appears through our lives. Jesus said, “When you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” In a similar way, followers of Jesus are the temple of God where He dwells on earth. We are tabernacles of the living God. Where is God? Here! What a truly awesome thought!

Jesus tells his disciples, “You are the light of the world.” He is commissioning them, giving them an assignment, inviting them into his mission. The word “world” speaks of the Gentiles. Followers of Jesus are to be salt and light…reaching Jews and Gentiles.


There are warnings in both the passage on salt and that of light. Saltless salt is thrown out. It is “road dust” as John Stott called it. Our salt, sodium chloride, does not lose its saltiness, but first-century Palestinian salt could.

Covered lights have no value, either.

You are the light of the world. A town built 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 others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

So What?

We are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world. That’s what it means to follow Jesus, to participate in his mission, to be his agents of reconciliation and redemption. It makes me so sad when I hear Christians talk about how they’re just waiting for Jesus to return when, in fact, he may be waiting for us to get busy, to be salt, to shine. We’re on a mission from God, love crusade to seek and save the lost, to proclaim good news, to love others, to extend grace, and to deliver shalom.

All of the blessings in the beatitudes were a prelude to the assignment he has given us to be salt and light.

Are you?

Maybe you are salt that likes to stay in the salt shaker. It may be comfortable, but salt is useless until it is poured out.

Maybe you’ve covered your light. You’ve been ashamed of Jesus, perhaps fearful of the persecution we discussed last Sunday. Or maybe you’re simply like those lamps at the home improvement store, a huge collection of lights with no real purpose. Lights need to be in places where it’s dark. We are not to be of the world, but we need to be in it. We need to get to know our neighbors. We need to interact with co-workers and classmates. We can’t constantly surround ourselves with Christians.

I confess I’m not the best at this. Working at a church is an occupational hazard for evangelism! That’s why we need one another. I’m here to equip you, to charge up your batteries so your light can shine brightly this week.

Family, our world desperately needs salt and light. They need to experience Jesus in word and deed in our lives. They’re never going to find what they’re looking for in technology, politics, business, or entertainment. The world needs Jesus, and we are his agents. We must impact other people for His glory.

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)

The Church doesn’t have a mission. God’s mission has a Church! That’s us! Let’s be salt. Let’s shine the light of Jesus. Let’s be faithful and obedient in following Jesus. The world will be better for it…and so will we.

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