Salt and Light

(Originally published 6/30/11)

Matthew 5:13-16 (NKJV) 
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.  You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

When Jesus likened His disciples to ‘salt and light’ He was basically telling them that the sum total of their Christian character should have an influence on those around them for good. Now that’s not to say that those we have an influence on will necessarily think it’s good and appreciate us—why? Because the world is an open sore and we are salt; the world is living in darkness and we come along shining as lights—both hurt which explains the world’s reaction to us as Jesus described it in v.11-12:

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

The idea behind Jesus’ declaration here is that the world is decaying and the world is in darkness—that is the biblical worldview—the world is not getting better and better it is becoming more and more corrupt. Man is not evolving upward in wisdom and goodness he is devolving downward—even as the Bible prophesied that in the last days evil men would grow worse and worse.

It’s interesting to go back in history to the end of the nineteenth century—just a little over a hundred years ago when philosophers, poets, scientists and society in general all had an incredible optimism for the coming new century. Back then most people in the world believed they were about to enter into a Golden Age in the history of humanity where wars would be abolished, diseases would be cured, hunger would be eradicated and all suffering done away with. They believed that through the education of the masses drunkenness, violence and all other vices would come to an end; that nations would talk and not fight and the world would be characterized by peace.

Some writers even went as far as to say that the world was fast becoming a paradise—and it was all based on the theory of evolution—that mankind was getting better and better; that man was evolving, ascending upwards in character and wisdom.

But then we came into the 20th century—which was the bloodiest in the history of the world containing two world wars and countless other wars between nations. The Holocaust itself was a gruesome and unimaginable “wake up call” that man wasn’t getting better, his heart was just as evil as ever–if not more so.  Hitler, a big proponent of evolution, tried to hasten the process of evolution on human beings and bring about a master race by exterminating all those who he considered genetically inferior and less evolved—the strong killing the weak—his version of natural selection.

Listen, information in the brain has little to do with the evil in men’s hearts—and that’s where evil resides just as Jesus said to His disciples in Matt.15:19 
The Bible says that the natural man is dead in trespasses and sins and when something is dead it decays—enter the need for salt. The Bible says the world is enveloped in moral and spiritual darkness—enter the need for light.

Let’s look at salt and light and see how they describe us as Christians.

I. The Salt of the Earth–v.13

Matthew 5:13 (NKJV) 
“You [plural–“you and you alone”] are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

In the ancient world salt was a very valuable commodity. The Greeks even went as far as to say it was divine (that’s really no big deal; there wasn’t much the Greeks didn’t consider divine). The Romans said that nothing was more valuable than sun and salt. Roman soldiers were actually paid with salt and if the man was a rotten soldier they would say, “He’s not worth his salt.”

Now back in Jesus’ day salt had three main purposes or influences—and each of these apply spiritually to our influence as Christians upon those we come in contact with.

A. Salt created thirst

 We Christians are to make people thirsty for the Living Water of Jesus—

John 4:13-14 (NKJV) 
Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again,  but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never  thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

John 7:37-38 (NKJV) 
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

Only Jesus can satisfy the great thirst of the human soul for God. The Psalmist said, “My soul thirsts for God for the living God.”  Our responsibility is to drink each day of Jesus so that, when we go into the world with love, joy, peace and purpose, we make the people of this world thirsty for what we have.

B. Salt was used to season

It’s our responsibility to add flavor to life. You see life apart from Jesus can become routine, bland and boring most of the time. That’s the reason behind much of the alcoholism, drug abuse and all the pleasure mania in our culture today.  People are doing everything they can to put some spice into life because life without Jesus is insipid and unsatisfying.  But the things of this world will never add flavor and satisfaction to life–no matter how much people spend on gadgets, entertainment, and recreation.

Isaiah 55:2-3a (NKJV) 
Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me…

The Psalmist said, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps.34) but unbelievers will never desire to taste if the people of God aren’t living in such a way that makes people hungry for what you have.

C. Salt retarded decay

Back in Jesus’ day they had no refrigeration which meant meat would spoil and decay quickly.So they would rub salt on their meat to kill surface bacteria and retard decay.  Look, there’s a lot of ‘bacteria’ out there in this world—a lot of corrupting influences in our society which are causing the decay of morals and decency.

We can see the effects of the process in the high divorce rate, in the disintegration of the family, in the number of murders and other violent crimes and so on.  A corrupt society is bearing witness to the fact that the salt is not doing its work. And as Jesus went on to say in v.13–

Matthew 5:13 (NKJV) 
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

If we who profess to be Christians aren’t standing up and speaking out against sin—then just like salt that no longer retains its saltiness and is good for nothing—our Christianity becomes irrelevant and meaningless. So many Christians are content to keep their Christianity confined within the four walls of churches where it will remain hidden and ineffective in impacting the world outside the church. This brings us to the second thing that Jesus said we are as His disciples in this world—

II. You are the Light of the World–v.14-16

Matthew 5:14-16 (NKJV) 
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

The first thing this implies is that the world is in a state of darkness and we alone are its only light source.

One author had this to say on the subject–“It’s interesting how the world is always talking about enlightenment ever since the Renaissance of the 15th and 16th centuries which ended the Dark Ages. It was regarded as an age of enlightenment where mankind began to take a new interest in knowledge and learning. Regarded by many as the great turning point in the history of civilization as mankind began to look to knowledge, education and science for the answers to man’s problems.”

Sadly, man is still looking to science and education to save us from our problems. However we stand here this morning at the dawn of a new millennium with more knowledge in medicine, science and technology than was known in all of the previous centuries in the history of the world combined—and it not only hasn’t saved mankind or solved our problems—it has added to them.

The sad reality is that the more our knowledge has increased instead of solving our problems it has allowed man to invent more and more sophisticated weapons so that we’ve become more efficient in killing one another—weapons that now threaten man’s very existence. I know that many people will defend modern science and technology for all the good things they have done for the human race—and yes there have been many benefits but also many negatives.  So if the negatives wind up destroying mankind then the good won’t mean too much.

God’s word rightly says that mankind is in darkness and so the greatest ‘enlightenment’ that man needs isn’t scientific it’s spiritual—he needs spiritual light that comes from God.

Spiritual light is truth—the truth of God revealed to man. This is what the theologians call Special Revelation (The Bible).

God’s word is truth and therefore it is light.

John 17:17 (NKJV) 
Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. 

Psalm 119:105 (NKJV) 
Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.

All throughout the O.T. period God revealed His word to the prophets in bits and pieces until the full revelation was given to mankind through the incarnation of His Son on this earth.

Hebrews 1:1-2a (NKJV) 
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son…

John 1:6-9 (NKJV) 
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

John 8:12 (NKJV) 
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

John 14:6 (NKJV) 
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

So spiritual light is the revelation of God’s truth found in His word and declared by His Son. Since God is the source of all spiritual light the only way we can be spiritual lights in this world is to surrender our lives to Jesus where the Light of the world, Jesus Christ, comes to live in our hearts. It is only then that we become the light of the world as He said in here Matthew 5:13 which means that it is our responsibility to share the truth of God with others through our words but especially through our lives as Jesus shines through us.

Matthew 5:14-16 (NKJV) 
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

First of all, the purpose of a light source is to give light to the surrounding area. There is no purpose in lighting a candle or a lantern only to hide it under a basket. The purpose of our Christian lives is to be a light to those who are living in spiritual and moral darkness around us in the world.

Jesus didn’t say to His disciples, “You are the light of the church”, He told them, “You are the light of the world.”

If we don’t take the light of God into the darkness of the world around us but only keep it here in church—then this place becomes nothing more than a giant “basket” to hide our light making it useless.  How do we let our light shine in the darkness of this world?  Jesus alluded to it here in our text—“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”(v.16)

In the rest of this sermon Jesus will be teaching us what He meant by letting the world see our good works—which don’t get us into heaven but reveal that we are already the children of God. What would hinder the light of Christ from “so shinning” through us? Have you ever seen a candle trying to shine through a dirty window?  You need to clean the window so the light can shine through unhindered.

The same is true with us. If our life is dirty from sin we first need to get cleansed so that the light of Jesus can shine through us unhindered.

1 John 1:9 (NKJV) 
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

A clean life (holy living) will allow our light (Jesus) to so shine through us.

Philippians 2:14-16 (NLT) 
Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.

May the Lord richly bless you as you walk with Him day by day.

Pastor Phil