Two weeks ago, we looked at how Jesus wants us to celebrate our suffering. If we are persecuted and reviled and slandered due to the living out of our faith, then we are to rejoice because we are in good company --- the prophets endured the same fate. But we are to also rejoice because of our reward.
In most of our Bibles, we have a new heading that is between verses 12 and 13 which may say "Salt and Light." This plays tricks on our eyes because it may convey that verses 13-16 are totally separated from the Beatitudes of 1-12. They are not. The Beatitudes speak of an inner attitude of following Christ. Verses 13-16 show that this attitude must translate into a lifestyle.
A couple of weeks ago, Newsweek had a cover story entitled "Bush and God," which told of the deep and abiding Christian faith that our President embraces. In fact, Newsweek calls him the most faith-based President of modern times. Now, regardless of what you think of President Bush, you cannot accuse him of being one to hide his faith, especially considering that during his 2000 Presidential Campaign he told the media that the most influential person in his life was Jesus Christ.
In a subarticle, he was contrasted with former President Jimmy Carter who was able to separate his beliefs from his political stances, saying that they shouldn't cross.
As a result, President Bush has come under considerable fire for being so vocal about his faith and incorporating so much Scripture in his speeches.
My question to you this morning is this: if we took a snapshot of your life during the week, would you be accused of living out your faith as Kingdom People, or do you feel you should separate your "faith" from your "real life"? Does your relationship with Christ so permeate your thinking, your speech, your actions that it is unmistakable as to who is your Lord and Master --- or is your relationship with Christ a "Sunday-go-to-meetin'" faith? As Kingdom People, you will see from this passage and really the rest of the Sermon on the Mount that this relationship and Kingdom attitude must show itself in Kingdom Living in a Kingdom that is of this world.
We are called to be salt and light. It's not that we must strive to be salt and light. Jesus stresses "You ARE" salt and light. What does He mean?
1. Kingdom people are preservers.
In verse 13, Jesus tells us that we are the "salt of the earth." Jesus often uses common everyday materials to deal with a spiritual truth. So what does Jesus mean by the fact that we are the "salt of the earth?"
Many say that we are to be ones who season life here on earth. We add flavor and spice to society. Now, there is some truth to this. More art, more literature, more music has been devoted to Jesus Christ than to any other subject or person on earth. Our calendars are built around His birth.
Yet, it doesn't seem as if this goes far enough. Sure, we spice up the world, but the world does not see it as thus. And really, our goal is not to spice up the world solely with art, music, and literature, but to use these tools and every other resource available to present the Gospel. And that is totally dull and drab and boring to our society.
What Jesus is saying here is that we are to be preservatives in this world. Preservatives morally, but also a preserver of the name of Christ and the Kingdom of God in the midst of an enemy Kingdom. You see, in Jesus' time, there were no refrigerators to store meat, so meat was preserved by being cured with salt, wrapped up in a cloth and put in the ground. The salt kept the meat from decaying away and becoming rotten and uneatable. So we as the "salt of the earth" are placed in the earth to preserve the name of Christ and to keep a moral influence that keeps the immoral influence at bay.
Remember Romans chapter 1. Paul writes that when non-believers are left on their own and are without Christ, they reject even the basic knowledge of God found in creation. What happens? They deteriorate. The further away they drift from God, the more immoral they get until their worship is corrupted, their actions are corrupted, and they are given over to their desires and perverted passions.
So God places us in this world as his salt to slow down and, in cases of people receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior, stop this process. But we must be careful that the salt maintains its preserving nature! The salt would loose its power to preserve when other minerals would be mixed in. Sure the salt would still be salt, but it could not function for its intended purpose. The result? Its thrown out. So we will lose our effectiveness and Kingdom influence if we do not keep those toxic minerals of the things of which the Apostle John warns us: Do not love the things of this world. . . . For all that is in the world --- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions --- is not from the Father but is from the world. (1 John 2:15a, 16) And James warns us, But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:14-15) We must keep our salt (our Gospel influence) pure and undefiled.
Now think about this: in our day, where is salt kept? In a salt shaker, right? In that nice little container that's on our kitchen table that 99.9% of the time just sits in there. But I saw the title of a book in the bookstore recently that says it all: "Out of the Saltshaker." We are to be rubbed into society as salt is rubbed into meats --- we are salt that is to keep society from going bad.
John Stott puts it in perspective: "When society does go bad, we Christians tend to throw up our hands in pious horror and reproach on the non-Christian world; but should we not rather reproach ourselves? One can hardly blame unsalted meat for going bad. It cannot do anything else. The real question to ask is: where is the salt?"
Were not called to circle the wagons, but to spread the preserving salt of the Gospel.
- We are presenters.
Jesus then moves on to say that we are the light of the world. Salt works inwardly where no one can see its works, but they can see its effects. Light is something that only works if it shines all around. And so are we: we are only effective as Kingdom People when we present the pure light of the Gospel truth to a darkened world.
This being the light of the world is a common theme in the both the Old and New Testament. Isaiah 2:5 says, O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD. Isaiah 9:2 says, The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.
After all, Jesus said that He was the light of the world and whoever walks after me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. Ephesians 5:8 says, For at one time, you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. 2 Corinthians 4:6 says, For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
That is what our Christian life and walk is all about --- reflecting the glory of God in Christ Jesus. Jesus continues by giving two examples of what light can do. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden, He tells the crowd. What does He mean by this?
Well, in our day of technology when the simple flip of a switch can light a room, we do not know too much of the thickness of darkness. People who live in remote parts of Canada where cities are hundreds of miles away, darkness can so overwhelm that when one sticks their hand three inches in front of their face, they cannot see it. Yet, if a city is just 50-75 miles away, that light glimmers faintly over the horizon so people can see it.
Many of us cannot comprehend such darkness, but the people is Jesus time could. That city on a hill which shines its light meant that those who were in darkness could go toward that light and find safety and shelter.
Jesus continues, Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
When you light a lamp, you light it so that you can see what is in the room. Back then, a lamp was fueled by oil, which was costly and would run out quickly --- so it couldnt be wasted. So it would be foolish to use precious oil to light a lamp in the room --- only to cover up that lamp with a bucket so it doesnt function the way a lamp must.
So too with us. It would be foolish to take the light of the glory of God, who is the Spirit of Christ in us, and not allow that light to shine but cover it up. That light is precious and should not be wasted.
How is the oil of the Holy Spirit wasted? The greatest way is lost time. For every second that we cover up our light, that is time wasted --- never to be regained. That could be one soul that we never encountered for the Gospel; one soul that we could have encouraged in the faith; one soul that we could have encountered and knew how to pray for them.
Plus, when we cover up our light, that means that we are not out there strengthening our spiritual muscles through obedience. Were not standing up on that lampstand letting others gaze into that light. Our spiritual muscles start to atrophy and we lose confidence in how God can uphold us. We forget about how those who are persecuted are blessed and approved by God and have a reward waiting for them. We forget about those who have gone before us in the faith --- even to the point of giving their lives. We forget about how the light of Christ shone so brightly even while He was dying naked on that Tree at Calvary. Persecution for the sake of the Gospel is the match that lights the candle of Gods glory and the oil that fuels the lamp for His Kingdom. So we must let our light shine.
- We must be pointers.
This sums it up. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Why are we to be salt and light? We are to be these things because it will (1) demonstrate how sinners such as us can be transformed by the grace and mercy of Christ and, (2) through Christ, do good things that bring glory to Him.
We were sinners, but now we are sinners saved by grace. And the things that we do, the good works we accomplish as Christians are the result of the good work that God has done in us. So the works that we do in His Name ultimately point to Him and bring Him glory.
My question to you is: does your life point to Him? Are you so much salt and light that people look at you not because of anything you do but because of what Christ has done in you and is doing through you? This morning is the morning to come to Him so He may clean out all those impurities that hinder your Kingdom influence in this world. This morning is the morning to come to Him so that He may remove that bushel basket that you use to cover the light of Him and to smash that basket to pieces.
Wont you come and give your heart to Christ as He removes that heart of stone in you that cares nothing for Him and so much for self, so that He may give you that softened heart of flesh that is sensitive to His leading? Come give your heart to Christ this morning.