In this episode, we begin by talking through the metaphor of sacrifices seasoned with salt. We are the salt of the earth and are called to bring out the flavor of reality, to emphasize the truth of God’s created order. The Book of James tells us about two different kinds of fire – the fire of judgment and the refining fire. One which destroys and the other which cleanses.
Sacrifices seasoned with salt
—everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt.
So now we have a picture. These Jews, they go to sacrifice all the time, right? There’s a few sacrifices you burn all the way up. But for the most part, the sacrifice is a barbecue. So, we’ve all been to pit barbecues. Cooper’s? You go to Cooper’s barbecue. You open the pit. All the stuff is in there.
Well, that’s what they did. They barbecue the stuff, and the priest got part, and they got to eat the rest with their family and have a festival because, you know, potluck is biblical. And everybody’s bringing something, and they cook it, and they go have it with their family. Because the Lord’s table is a celebration of fellowship. And there’s nothing new about that.
So, —everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt. Now we’re a sacrifice.
What do you want the lamb that you killed and roasted, what’s it’s primary purpose once you roast it? You want it to taste good, right?
If you want it to taste good, what do you always include a little of? Salt. Seasonings. You want a little bit of seasonings. Not too much, but not too little.
Why do you want seasonings? So it will taste good. Because the sacrifice is offered to please.
In the case of sacrifice in the Jewish system, there’s two groups that get pleased: One is God because you gave something up. His people are the priests, and part of what you raised that was yours you’ve given to the priests. And you’ve also done it in the way God asked you to do it. There’s an obedience there. And God says, “Boy, that makes me happy.”
Except when he says it doesn’t make him happy, which is when your heart’s not in it. And he says, “You know the sacrifices you’re bringing me? I’m just going to puke it out because your hearts are not in this. You’re bringing this like you’re obeying me, and you’re not obeying me everywhere else, and you’re obeying me here, so I’m just going to puke it out. I’m going to spit it out.” This is supposed to be part of the way you live your life, not a silo.
Paul tells us we’re to be a living sacrifice. And it’s supposed to be the reasonable, logical thing to do. This is Romans 12. We want to be a Romans 12 church. That’s what James is talking about here, the same thing.
Can I go up on the barbecue spit? I would love to be a tasty meal for God, and I know that in order to be a tasty meal for God, I need some salt.
Well, where does that come from. Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it?
So now you’ve got salt, and you pour it on there, and it just tastes like dirt. It’s not salty anymore.
So if our salt is all turned into dirt, we’re going to have a barbecue that doesn’t taste good.
Here’s the bottom line to the twelve disciples. Here’s the lesson. The lesson’s right here: Here’s what I want you guys to do: Have salt in yourselves and have peace with one another.
It started with them disputing on the road, right? Here’s what I think he’s saying: we’re going to be a living sacrifice to please who? God. So love God by doing what he wants you to do. And have peace with one another. Is there a commandment that goes with that one? Like, love your neighbor as yourself? And guess what? You twelve? You’re each other’s neighbor.
The greatest commandment
Love God, love others. That would make a good slogan for a church.
So, the greatest commandment. You know, there’s no greater commandment than to love God. How do you do that? With all your heart. How do you do that? You do what God asks you to do.
If you do that, what are you doing? You’re creating salt for the world is what you’re doing. You’re becoming a living sacrifice that pleases God. And if you have peace with one another, don’t try to one-up one another in saying I’m better than you. But instead, try to one-up one another in saying I’m going to serve these children, maybe, better than you.
If you want to one-up, do that. Of course, you don’t want to one-up at all. So that’s the point.
Now, I’ll try to think about this salted with fire, salted with salt. If you’re salted with fire, what you’re saying is every time we get the fiery trials, it’s an opportunity to trust and be a living sacrifice there as well. That makes sense.
What that would potentially mean is the fire is pleasing God and the salt is serving one another, which is kind of the same idea, I suppose.
Fire of judgment or refining fire
But we have fire in here twice. One is the fire in Gehenna, and the other’s the fire of Christ judging. And so, which one do you want? You get to pick the fire you have, but you don’t get the pick of “I want a life without fire.” That’s not a life you get.
You get the smoldering fire of judgment in the trash heap or you get the refining fire of Christ to turn us into precious gold and silver.
So when you see this hell word, you have to look behind it and ask, is this Hades or Gehenna? And if it’s Gehenna, ask yourself, what is this valley of death, what is this picture supposed to be?
It could be talking about the afterlife. It’s most likely going to be talking about something in this life; and it can, of course mean both because they’re very connected.
So, back to James. James is saying your tongue is the gearshift that connects you to these entire worlds. And so this Gehenna, that is what connecting into the world’s system gives you: Death, destruction. And the way you do that’s sin, and the alternative is not to sin.
And how do you not sin? Well, you think thoughts after God. You have the implanted word. You supplant the thoughts and the speech that puts you into the world’s system. That’s how you do that.
And is this to determine whether we get in or not? No. It’s to determine whether my life is going to be a winning life or a losing life. It’s consequences that we’re talking about.
Now we come to chapter 4. Let me just do the first point of chapter 4.
It starts with our desires
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?
You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.
You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
So, James comes and says, where do you think wars and fighting is? Where do you think arguing about who’s the greatest comes from? When you’re doing that, which of these two drive trains is kicking in? It’s the world’s system, right?
Now, where does that come from? We’ve got this believe, speak, do. Believe, speak, do. That’s the way the world works. And this is a biblical theme. If you believe the wrong things and speak the wrong things, you’re going to do the wrong things. If you do the wrong things, you are going to believe the wrong things. If you speak the wrong things, you’re going to believe the wrong things. It’s all connected.
So, how does this start? It starts from our desires. And this word desires is a word you might recognize, hedone, hedonism. It’s where we get our word hedonism from. Desires.
So we have these desires for pleasure that “war in our members.”
Is it wrong to desire?
The first thing you could say is, does that mean desire is something we should try to get rid of? Has anybody ever thought that before? I have. I’ve thought about it before. You’ve thought that before too? I wish I could get rid of desires. Not that desire, just desire. And you could say that desire. But that leads to, I should just get rid of desire. And that’s not what he’s going to tell us here.
You lust and do not have.
Now, is lust bad? Raise your hand if you think lust is bad. Raise your hand if you think lust is good. Raise your hand if you say it depends. It depends wins! What does it depend on? What you’re lusting for! Exactly!
Is it good to pant after the word of God and lust for it?
Is it good to lust that your children learn to make good decisions and know what good values are?
Is it good to lust after controlling your children so they won’t embarrass you? No!
So, it depends on what it is you’re lusting after, doesn’t it?
Does God lust? Yes, he does. He lusts. Let’s look at that real quickly. It’s in Galatians 5:17.
The Spirit and the flesh at war
For the flesh lusts against the Spirit—
Here we’ve got the drive train, what James is calling “the world” and Gehenna and demonic and all those things, Paul calls “the flesh.”
So, the flesh lusts against the Spirit—
Of course, the Spirit is connected to the wisdom of God, the word of God, the word of God made flesh, God himself. So, this is all happening inside of us. We have this war going on. The flesh lusts against the Spirit. And—
the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.
So they’re fighting. And what is it that they’re lusting after? What is it that they’re panting over? Yes, I think that’s right. Control over you. And who gets to decide that? Drive train. I’ve got the gear shift knob. I get to decide.
And how do I decide that? What I speak. What I do. Which is based on what I think and what I say.
The conversation in your head
What is a thought? It’s just something you say that you don’t articulate with your mouth, perhaps. But these words are going around in your head all the time, aren’t they?
You have this conversation going on: “You should do that. That person, they hate you. They’re focusing on you. Everything’s about you. You need to pay them back.”
I was with some guys recently, and they told me in men’s ministry, one of the things they have learned is every man has a tape of things his dad told to him playing in his head all the time.
Isn’t that interesting? You know what I have? A fiddle. There are fiddle tunes going around in my head at the time. So in my case, I kind of got away with that. But now I play fiddle tunes all the time. It’s happened to me. But it’s kind of innocuous.
You know, you’ve got that conversation going on, and why is that conversation happening? In large part it’s because there’s an argument going on, not over who’s greatest, but over where you should put your gear level. That’s happening at the time.
And the flesh is a ventriloquist, and the flesh does not want to say, “Hey, by the way this is Gehenna speaking. Death, destruction, maiming, loss, burning, that’s what you should have.” No. It never does that. It’s always, “This is you. I’m speaking as you. I’m not a third party. I’m you.” And if that doesn’t work, it says, “I’m God. This is what God would want for you. This is what God would want you to have.”
We ask amiss
Well, we don’t have because we ask amiss, that we may spend it on our pleasures, which means what? What does that mean? That’s hedone again, pleasures.
What does that mean? If it says you ask for the wrong things, you should ask for the right things, then it means it’s good to, what? It’s good to ask. It’s good to desire. It’s good to want. Just want the right stuff. We ask amiss.
How does that work? Well, there’s a prayer from the seventies that I thought I would read.
And in order to understand this, I just have to say for some of you who are not old enough to know this, to explain what Dialing for Dollars is.
It was a franchise, and the local TV station would have the weather man, or somebody like that. You’d mail in your phone number; and back in those days, there was a book that they printed that had everybody’s phone number in it. And you would put your name in there, and they would go through and look up your phone number, and at the first of the show they would give you a password, like, “Hermann.” And if you got the call and you knew the password, you got however much money was in the pot. If nobody answers or if they don’t know the password, the pot would increase one more week. Great drama.
So, this is it. This is the prayer. This actually played on the radio.
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV? (It used to be expensive to have a color TV back in the day.)
Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me.
I wait for delivery each day until three,
So oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV?
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town? (It’s like if God really loved me, he would make me popular in Gehenna.)
I’m counting on you, Lord, please don’t let me down.
Prove that you love me and buy the next round,
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town?
This is kind of how we think.
What are we supposed to pray for?
Let me just close with this. What does James tell us to pray for here? I started looking for that. What are we supposed to ask for? “I don’t see anything. And I don’t see anything. And I don’t see anything.” And I didn’t see anything until the end of 5, and he asks us to pray for two things in 5:15. He asks us to pray for other people when they’re sick, and then he says Elijah prayed, and the rain dried up. So you ought to do stuff like that.
Well, that’s weird, isn’t it? I’ll pray for a drought. No. What Elijah was doing is he was praying for judgment on an unrighteous nation so they’d come back to the Lord.
So, pray for the welfare of others, and pray for righteousness for your nation and community.
That’s kind of a boring prayer. Who wants to have a prayer time like that, right? I want to have a prayer time where it’s all about me. I want to have a prayer time where all my problems are dealt with.
The Bible does tell us, take your cares and cast them to the Lord. And that can be done in prayer. But it’s not so he will commensurate with you on your problem so you can take them back again, and now you have someone else feeling sorry for you. It’s so you can leave them there and then go on and live free of those cares. That’s the idea.
So, we’re supposed to ask with an external view. And guess what happens when we do that? We’re getting our eyes off of self.
We have a self problem
Where’s the fundamental problem in the first place? We’ve heard it all the way through James. You don’t have a circumstance problem, young man. You don’t have a circumstance problem, old man. You don’t have a circumstance problem, ma’am. You have a self problem because you have these desires, and you’ve become pregnant with them, and then you birth them. And then they grow up. And then they become death, Gehenna.
So, stop nurturing things that turn into Gehenna.
Solution to the self problem
And what do you do instead? Well, get in vitro. Get a new word. Get the implanted word that is able to save you from all this stuff, and let it grow up, and nurture that. And then become constructive and productive. And the way you do that is with an external focus to become a living sacrifice and season the world with salt and bring light into the world and serve children and do things for people that can’t pay you back, at least in this life that you can see. And do things for one another to make the team the strong thing.
You know it’s twelve for one and one for all, not me at the head of the pack.
And do things that bring light into the world so they can see God. Do that. And then you’re not thinking about self, and now you’re putting into the gear that has the infinite power of the universe.
We call that a superhero, when somebody has infinite power, don’t we?
A superhero in God’s kingdom looks like somebody that serves children.