Tony Evans - The Power Of Praise
We're fighting a major virus, aren't we? This virus has threatened our well-being. Our ability to fight this virus personally is tied to our immune system. The stronger the immune system, the better the fight. The weaker the immune system, the weaker the fight. Well, there is an immune system that God has placed in society, it's called the church. The church is God's immune system to fight the impact of the virus of sin and evil that affects our life and our world, and even opens up the door for the circumstances that we're facing today medically. Because the spiritual influences and impacts the physical.
I've said it many times, let me repeat it, everything visible and physical is preceded by something invisible and spiritual. So, if you want to rectify the visible and physical, you must identify and correctly utilize the invisible and spiritual. And so, if all you see is what you see, you do not see all there is to be seen. We do not see the virus, but we certainly see its effect. We don't see God, but his effects are very real. If the immune system of society, Christians and the church, if that immune system is weak, the door is open for all manner of evil, and yes, even disease to infiltrate the society. If you don't see that, then all you'll deal with is what you see. And you'll do the best you can. God gave two analogies.
In Matthew chapter 5, verses 13 to 16 to talk about the special role of God's people and his church in the society. He says in verse 13, "You are the salt of the earth". He then goes on to say in verse 14, 15, and 16, "You are the light of the world". Salt and light. Don't misread this. He doesn't say you're the salt of the shaker. Says you're the salt of the earth. You have salt in a shaker and it doesn't do much for the decay in the meat because it's hanging out with other salt.
One of the things this virus has done is move the salt out of the shaker. God does this in the Bible in Acts chapter 8. God created disturbance or allowed disturbance to move his people out of their comfort zone in Jerusalem so that they would get out into the broader society. He used inconvenience. God is not just shaking society, he's shaking Christians. He's shaking the church and he said, "You've been too comfortable in the shaker, hanging out with all the salt. It's time for you to be salt on some meat that's decaying called the earth". You are the salt of the earth.
You see, back in biblical days, salt was used as a preservative. Some of your great grandparents or grandparents in the county may still do that, salting down the meat, because salt acts as an antibacterial agent. And it fights against decay. When you see decay in the world, in the culture, moral, social, racial decay, something has gone wrong with the presence of salt being in the decaying meat, allowing the decay to happen much more rapidly. No, we are to stymie the decay by our presence in the meat, not just in the shaker, that is in the church. We are to be in the society, making a difference for God.
And he says you, and the Greek text literally means you and nobody else, because I work through my church to affect what happens in society and in the culture. So, when you complain how bad the culture is, you got to ask how salty is the salt. In fact, can we even find the salt, or is it hidden in the shaker inside the cabinet? You are the salt of the earth. Not only was salt a preservative, but salt creates thirst. You know, when people drink saltwater, they get more thirsty because salt creates thirst.
I remember one day, when I was at an airport and I was in the Admirals Club, and they asked if I wanted something to drink. I wanted some ginger ale, I got some ginger ale. When they brought me the ginger ale, they brought me a cup of snacks, peanuts and pretzels all full of salt. I didn't ask for that, I didn't order that, I just ordered a ginger ale. But they brought those snacks unrequested, and that was on purpose. They did that because it's full of salt. And they knew that if I drank my ginger ale and ate the snacks, I would order and pay for another ginger ale. They weren't just being kind to me, they were invoking me to another drink that I would pay for.
Jesus says, "You are the salt of the earth". You know what our job is? To preserve, to hinder the decay in society, and to create thirst for our God and for his Savior. You see, if folk around you aren't getting thirsty because your faith is so vibrant, so real, then that means that you aren't creating thirst, I'm not creating thirst, the church is not creating thirst.
How can we have all these churches on all these corners with all these programs and all these buildings and all these Christians and all this activity, and still have all this chaos in society? The virus of racism, and culturalism, and classism, the virus of divorce, the virus of moral decay, how can we have all these viruses and even pandemics? How can all this stuff be? Maybe it's because the salt can't be located.
There's a great biblical illustration of the importance of God's presence in society with Sodom and Gomorrah. These were two cities located side by side, where God pronounced in Genesis 18, he pronounced judgment because it had decayed so badly. But then Abraham came to God and said, "Will you destroy the righteous with the wicked"? He cut a deal with God. He said, "If I can find 50 righteous, will you save the city for the sake of the 50"? And God agreed with the deal. He says, "If you can find 50 folk who do things my way, not their way, then I'll spare the 500.000", or however many were living there, "for the sake of the 50".
Abraham couldn't find 50, he said, "What about 40"? Couldn't locate 40, he said, "What about 30"? Couldn't locate 30, he said, "What about 20"? He even went down to ten and God said, "I'd still do the deal". So, why was Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed? It wasn't just for its moral decay or its oppression of the poor, both of which were present in that society. No, it was destroyed because the righteous couldn't be located. And they had a good man in town named Lot. But Lot suffered from our disease of personal peace and affluence. He was so into his life, his world, his economics, that he missed the purpose of why God had him there. In fact, he lost his own family.
When he was about to leave town, his wife remembered Neiman Marcus and Saks and the mall, and she looked back and became a pillar of guess what? Salt. His two daughters left with him because his two sons-in-laws refused to go. They had an incestuous relationship with their father. I mean, if Lot would have won his own family, that would have been six people. If they would have won one each, that would have been 12. Abraham would have found ten, and Sodom and Gomorrah would still be on the map.
Why is our nation decaying? Our nation is decaying not just because of the evil and the viruses that are plaguing it. It's decaying because the righteous can't be located. He says, "You are the salt of the earth. And if the salt loses its saltiness", he says, "it becomes tasteless. And when it becomes tasteless", he says, "who can make it salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under the foot of men".
What does he mean? Well, in Israel, most of the homes are flat. In biblical days, people would do things like we do on porches. They would have receptions on the roof, weddings on the roof. They would do things on the rooftop, so there would be a lot of trodding, walking on the roof. After awhile, that would create holes in the roof, so it would rain in the house, so they had to patch up the roof. The way they would do that was with gypsum. They would mix gypsum with water, turn it into a paste, coagulate it with salt so it became like a clay, put it over the holes on the roof that had been trodden on for so long. The sun would bake the gypsum that's now mixed with water, tightened by salt, and harden it to be a sealant like tar on top of the roof so water wouldn't get into the house.
The problem was now the salt was good for nothing because gypsum is bitter. And so, you couldn't get the saltiness of the salt because it got mixed and watered down by being mixed with gypsum. So, it was good nothing except to be walked on. Do you know the world is walking on Christians and walking on the church? Do you know it's ignoring us, not paying attention to us, and not taking us seriously? Because we've gotten too worldly, we've gotten too mixed up with secularism, the secular way of thinking, the non-Christian approach to human definition, human sexuality, to the definition of marriage, to the meaning of parenting, to the role of children, to what it looks like to be God's representative in the workplace.
See, we have adopted the media's definitions, the secular definitions, and we wonder why the viruses are getting worse in our society. That's because we've gotten too mixed up with gypsum. And so, we're finding decay instead of development spiritually, in our lives, in our families, in our churches, and of course in the broader society. You are the salt of the earth, so if you want to save the culture, Jesus is saying it's up to you. Not just being a Christian, but being a disciple because he's talking to his disciples. That means you're a full-time follower, not a part-time saint. You're a seven day a weeker, not a two hour a Sunday visitor. No, you are the salt of the earth.
He goes on to say, "And you are the light of the world". He says, "And you're not to be hidden. You're a city on a hill. You're not a lamp that's under a bed or under a basket". He says, "What good is that? You are the light". The last time I checked, light only has one job, one role, one responsibility, and that is to shine. Light goes public. Light that's off is not of value. Light always overrides darkness. What does he mean, you are the light of the world? He means you're the influencer, you're supposed to be the influencer.
Christians are supposed to be influencing every segment of society, not just influencing church services. We're to be God's representative. You're a doctor, you're not just a doctor, you're God's representative in the medical field so the medical field sees what God looks like when God helps hurting patients. If you're a lawyer, you're not just a lawyer, you're God's representative in the bar association so the bar association sees what God looks like when God tries a case. If you're a business person, you're not just a business person. You're God's representative in business so the business world sees what God looks like when God cuts a deal.
If you're a teacher, you're not just a teacher. You're God's representative in education so education sees what God looks like when he teaches truth. If you're a housewife, you're not just a housewife. You're a demonstration of what God looks like when God is managing a well ordered home. If you're a trash collector, you're not just a trash collector, you're God's representative in cleanliness and stopping disease by the way you empty the trash. In everything you do, wherever you go, you're to be the light, that is the divine influence, representing God. We call that being a kingdom representative.
You are a kingdom representative who has built a relationship with God, who is drawing near to him in closeness relationship, and then publicly representing him. You are the light of the world. What good is a light that stays off? If you're in a dark room and it's pitch black, and you're bumping into things, and your family is bumping into things and any visitors are bumping into things, why? Because they can't see clearly. But if you turn on a flashlight, you've changed the equation, haven't you? Because the darkness now must submit to you, and the people following you know where to go.
Our world is dark. The problem is we've got Christians as dark as the world, so they don't know where to go 'cause we don't know where to go. We bumping into stuff, they bumping into stuff. We complaining that they bumping into stuff. They complaining that we bumping as much as they're bumping, so everybody's living in darkness when God says you're supposed to be the light. Folks are supposed to know which way to go because they see you know where to go. Why? Because you are following the light of the world.
He says, "What good is a light that's hidden? What good is a light private"? No, this is not a time for secret agent Christians, spiritual CIA representatives, and covert operatives. No, this is the time when Christians go public and they demonstrate they don't mind being known as followers of Jesus Christ. I was invited in Dallas some years ago to open up in prayer for the city council meeting. And they sent me a note, they said, "Just don't mention Jesus because we have people here who are not into religion, so just say general God". Well, I went down there and my prayer was basically:
Now Lord, the city council has asked me to come to you today to contact you about their decision making. You told me if I wanted to get to you, that the best way to do that is through the name of Jesus. So, since they want me to get to you, I come to you in Jesus's name. First of all, I thank you for creating the city council because if you didn't create them, then they couldn't be here to make decisions. And according to your Word, everything that was created was created by Christ Jesus, so I have to thank Jesus that they're here. Then I want to thank you for government because you created government. It's supposed to be a ministry of God. And that was written by Paul the Apostle, that Apostle that met Jesus on the Damascus road. So Lord, I pray that you bless their decision making, that you give them wisdom. And I ask all of this in Jesus's name, amen.
You see, if you don't want to hear about Jesus, don't invite me. Because when you invite me, Jesus comes with me. And he should come with you and everybody who claims to be a Christian. Why? We close our prayers in the name of Jesus because that is the mechanism God has given for us to access him. And so, the Father in heaven says, "How you treating the Son"? Because how you treating the Son affects how the Father views your discussion with him. So, the question is, are you an influence, or do you stay generic God because that's safe? You don't want to be too Christian.
Now, we're not talking about being bombastic, but we are talking about being clear. Not being like an undecided voter. You know, we're in this political season, and people deciding who they're voting on. Well, you know, we got too many undecided Christians. When a person decides who they vote on, they put it on their bumper, they put it in their yard, they got placards going on, why? They're declaring who they're voting for. I'm asking who you're voting for. You're the salt of the earth, you're the light of the world. Can we see your vote?
Let me put it another way. On your job, when you can get back to it, on your job, if they accuse you of being a visible, verbal follower of Christ, would you be convicted of all charges? Or would you be found innocent of any charge because you're not clear, you're a vague follower of Christ? Oh, I'm not talking about whether you go to church. I'm not talking about whether you believe in God. I'm talking about whether you are a visible, verbal follower of Christ because that will affect how much of Christ you experience and how much of impact you make.
When you decide, "I want to get close to you, Lord Jesus, and then, I want to publicly represent you", now you've gotten God the Father and Jesus the Son's undivided attention. He says in verse 16, "Now let men see your good works". Not just hear your good words because anybody can talk a good game. Let them see your good works. Let them see the things you do that are consistent with my will, that's a good work. That's not a good thing. An atheist can do a good thing. An atheist can be a philanthropist, an atheist can build orphanages, an atheist can build hospitals.
You don't have to believe in God to do a good thing. But we're not discussing doing good things, we're talking about doing good work. A good work is a God-ordained activity that he can authorize, for which he gets the credit. In other words, if God can't be connected to it, it's not a good work, it's a good thing. He wants to be connected to it. He wants it to be clear that he is standing with you in it and standing behind you for it, therefore you can't exclude him, you can't push him off to the sideline, you can't ignore him. No, he says, "Let men see your good works". You know, when you turn on your television, you don't just want the sound, you want the sight. You want sight and sound. You want what is being said to be supported by what is being seen.
So, if you've not been a quality representative of God, it's time to repent. God accepts repentance. That's where you just make it known, "I am turning from my secret agent status, I'm turning from just being salt in the shaker, I'm turning from just being a SMO, Sunday Morning Only. I'm turning from being a bedside Baptist or a mattress Methodist. I'm turning from just being a casual saint to being a committed Christian. And yes, I'm going to return to your Word, I'm going to return on my knees, and I'm going to return to getting to know you intimately, and then representing you publicly as your kingdom representative. Yes, I'm gonna turn because one of the reasons for this pandemic is to wake up the church".
Now yes, he wants to wake up the world, but he wants to do it through a awakened church. He wants us to stop sleeping, he wants us to return to our first love, and he wants to be that first love, which means passionately pursuing him and then publicly representing him. "Let men see your good works". And then he says, "And glorify your Father who is in heaven. And glorify your Father who is in heaven". That word "glory" is found throughout the Bible. The theme of the Bible is the glory of God through the advancement of his kingdom. That is the whole theme of all 66 books of the Bible, the glory of God through the advancement of his kingdom.
So, the question is, what does the word "glory" mean? Let's talk about glory. The word "glory" comes from a concept that means weighty. You remember growing up in the day, back in the day, old school? You would say, "Boy, that dude sure is heavy". Now, you weren't talking about his weight. You were talking about how deep they were in a particular area. Maybe they were real smart, you'd say, "That dude sure is heavy". You were talking about the greatness of somebody when you talked about their heaviness, their weightiness.
Well, when the Bible talks about the glory of God, it's talking about his weightiness, how heavy he is. It's talking about giving him the weight that his name is due, treating him like he is and for what he's worth. To glorify God means to put him on advertisement, to put him on display, to create a banner where he is clearly seen. You and I are God's advertisement agency. Christians individually and the church corporately, we're the ad campaign for the God of the Bible through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We're his ad agency.
So, the question is, what kind of advertisement are we giving about our great God? How are we advertising him? Through the influence that we are making in a corrupt, in a secular, and in a godless society as salt and light, and through the good works we're demonstrating. Those good works come in a lot of different ways. It comes in ministering to the homeless, ministering to the poor, helping the widow and the orphan. It comes through supporting the up and out, and the down and out with the good news of sharing our faith. When's the last time you witnessed to somebody and asked them about their eternal destiny? When is the last time you've inconvenienced yourself to make life better for somebody else?
At our church in Dallas, we've handed out cards, and these cards people can pick up for free at the bookstore that's simply our acts of kindness card. And we say whenever you run across somebody that has a need that you see, and God prompts you to meet that need in some way, whether it's helping an old lady across the street, picking up groceries for somebody, or helping a homeless person, get a meal, it can come in a million different ways. After you do that act of kindness, you hand them a card.
The card says, "This is an act of kindness from a member of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship here in Dallas. And if you need anything else, here's how you can contact us". And then, we say you pray with that person. And then, after you pray with that person, if there is an opportunity, you share the gospel with that person. So, we have hundreds and hundreds of people from our congregation all over handing out these cards, doing good work.
In fact, one lady who I ran into, who one of our members had helped and given a card to because she was in a wheelchair and they had served her, when the member gave them a card, she said, "Oh, you must be from that church, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, 'cause y'all everywhere". Oh, that's what we want to hear, God's people are everywhere. 'Cause we're supposed to be everywhere doing good stuff, good works, not just good things because we bring God into it and we bring the gospel into it. But we don't just tell people how to get to heaven, we tell them how we can help make their life better on earth on our way to heaven. That's what good works do.
You know, you can do good as a bowler. You can look sophisticated as a bowler. You know, they got bowling pants, bowling shirts, bowling shoes, bowling socks, fancy bowling bags, fancier bowling balls. You put your three fingers in there, you can spin that thing. But if that ball is rolling down the gutter, you're a good looking failure 'cause how good you look is irrelevant to the impact you're making. The goal of a bowler is to knock down pins, not look good.
Now, if you can look good while you knock down pins, good. But make sure you're knocking down pins. How many pins are you knocking down? How many pins will you knock down when this pandemic is over, the virus is ceased, and the world goes back to normal? Are you going to knock down some pins, or are you just going to look good in the bowling alley of church? Oh no, this is the time for impact. This is the time for kingdom people to make kingdom impact because you're an influencer, salt and light, because you represent the King.
You know, in television and movies, they show you previews of coming attractions. Those are the hot clips of the upcoming show, fight scene, chase scene. Now, the movie may be terrible, but you never know about a clips because the clips are always hot clips. Well, there's a big show coming to town. God is the producer, the Holy Spirit is the director, Jesus is the superstar, and it will be a worldwide production. It's called the kingdom of God. In the meantime, he's left you and me here as previews of coming attractions. We're supposed to be the hot clips of the upcoming show so that when people see the clips of our impact, they raise the question, how much does it cost to watch the show? That's when we can tell them it doesn't cost anything. The price has already been paid.
One of the great offers of our Savior Jesus Christ is life, plus abundant life. That means a fulfilled life. So many people are existing because they don't possess the life of God. If you don't know that you possess the life of God, let's get that fixed right now. Jesus Christ is offering you his life. The Bible says he that hath the Son hath life.
So, if you want life, not existence, the forgiveness of sins, the guarantee of heaven, and having Jesus Christ involved with your life on earth, all of that is in this package called life. And he's offering it to you for free. Now, not a lot is for free today, but this is, life for free. How do you get it? You simply go to Jesus Christ and trust him alone for it. You don't work for it, you don't earn it, you don't go to church for it. None of that can give you life. Only the person of Christ can give you life. So, I'm going to pray a prayer, you pray it after me. You just have to mean it for yourself.
Lord Jesus, I know I'm a sinner. I know I can't save myself. But you've offered me the free gift of eternal life in exchange for my sin. So, I place my sin next to your cross, believing you died as my substitute. And I receive now the eternal life that you said you would give me for free if I came to you for it. So, I receive that now, and thank you for my new salvation. In Jesus's name, amen.