SALT AND LIGHT: LIVING WITH A PURPOSE
Intro. Did you ever think that Jesus made a mistake with these words of 13-16? Of course Jesus must have understood His disciples weaknesses and everything. But maybe He was just caught up in the swirl of a sermon. Maybe He just got caught in His idealistic Beatitude preaching that He went from the “what if” to “what is” without any cautious transitions.
After all it is easy for us to allow Jesus Christ to preach out these beatitudes. We hear sermons all the time. We get used to just letting the words of the Kingdom drift by like clouds. They have little or no affect upon us. But Jesus like a bunch of dark and angry clouds decided that these clouds were going to have a real affect on the land below. And the rain came down. There were more to the words of Jesus than we often give credit to them. Jesus was confident of this.
In the beginning of Matthew 5 we first see multitudes gathering before Jesus amazed at His miracles. Those especially interested came to Him to listen to His teachings. It was here Jesus first begins to use the “Blessed are those...” In what might be a constitution of the Kingdom of Heaven the principles are put out before everyone. But in verse 11 when Jesus is speaking about persecution He begins to apply these teachings to their own lives. He said “Blessed are you...” Jesus goes from the crowds, to the general disciples, and right to the hearts of you and I as His disciples. Jesus sets the immortal principles of the kingdom written throughout creation. Now He begins to approach our own mindsets and break through the problems in our lives so that these principles of life can be lived out.
But one of the greatest problems that have beset the Christian church is one of not realizing who we really are. And because of that we have neglected to take our responsibilities seriously. This I believe is the heart of these verses 13-16. The crowds were looking at Jesus. Now Jesus was beginning to look at His disciples. Of course He was always looking at them. But now He was looking at them as a top manager giving the scope of the operations and trusting each key man to be faithful to carry out their work.
Have you ever let the Lord look into your heart and let Him tell you the reason He is allowing you to live today? His purposes shape our purposes. How have you allowed your Lord to shape the things you do today?
Yes, some of us, probably many of us, were looking only for the cure of one or two problems when we became Christians. God through Jesus met us wonderfully. We still remember the awesome time God helped us out. But many of us have not understood that Jesus is not a mere band-aid to man’s life problems. He is the Savior and Lord. He has used those problems to open your life to who He is. You see there were many people on the plain there seeing the great miracles that Jesus did. He cast out demons. But he stepped away because He wanted His disciples to know the key to a great life was not being healed but being a healer; not just receiving but giving. The special thing is that Jesus was providing what we needed to be like Him. Jesus is not just a patch so you can get through life. Jesus is not just insurance to get through life’s hazards. Jesus is not just a bodyguard to protect you during ghost festival (halloween).
In verses 13-16 Jesus turns to His disciples and spills out the heart of His mission. Jesus is taking God’s truth and power and placing it in some feeble, fumbling disciples. He knows He Himself will one day be leaving but through the Holy Spirit will be living in these same disciples. People will not be able to see, “Look - there is Jesus.” We cannot do this today. His disciples after a few more years would not be able to do this. The key to all of this was that Jesus was turning the mission over to these very disciples that were just learning what these commandments were let alone have mastered living them out.
I believe the world is crying out for help. It is suffocating. I just cannot watch, hear or see the news the world wants me to see anymore. I myself will despair. We will come back from these economic, political, leadership, moral, religious scandals and say there is nothing to live for. The best man can do is to hide in his private humanism, shut the curtains and the doors and keep the curse of the world out. But man can’t do this without harm. Their marriages are falling apart. The children are cursing parents. They can’t talk a decent conversation with their parents. So they leave it all and pretend the route of success at work. What they can’t believe is the problems are there too! The women were so happy chasing the men to the work-place to escape the pressures and loneliness at home only to find they have to endure some rude and arrogant boss and colleagues who care for nothing but themselves. So man runs to himself and hides in his heart. But no. There he finds boredom. He fumbles with sex and silliness. He watches films but finds afterwards a desperate loneliness: hatred, loneliness, and isolation.
I don’t know where you are in this race to nowhere but those around you are caught in a ever swirl of despair. What I say now I said before. Jesus is not just offering an answer to some problems of your life; He is the answer. He wants to be your life and your life purpose. Jesus wants to take all that He is and put it right inside you.
But more than this. Jesus has done it. Jesus has actually given us what we need to live like Christ. This is not for full time Christian workers. This is for all His true disciples. If we could only believe and understand that God now is working His great work through His disciples like you and me. This is why the Christian life is called a life of faith. He does it so that we can share in His eternal rewards not because we have specialized in theology or are good in teaching or even in giving. We all have special gifts and interests that follow these giftings of the Spirit, but what is much more important and foundational is the focus of our calling. It is to be like Jesus. God took Jesus out of the world and entrusted the rest of the mission to His disciples. What is so special is that when we begin to take this mission seriously, we change and the world around us changes. The world is waiting for the church to wake up and live under its calling. It has nothing else to wait for but for judgment. Christian, live like Christ and the world will cast its eyes on you! Like Christ you will need no ads for God’s glory is shining in a place with so much despair and darkness.
Jesus shares two aspects of this mission, which He has given to us. The first is being of godly character and the second is manifesting good works.
I am not interested today in stating all the uses of salt. Let me state briefly my point. If the world is getting darker, it is not because of the President, or the congress or the economy or even the public education system. It is simply the Church of God is getting more worldly. The church has lost her saltiness.
I love a good theological fight but withdraw. But let me put my gloves on the table and let you fight this argument out. When does the salt loose its flavor so that it is no longer salt? If you have a molecule of sodium-chloride, you have salt. Take either o these away and it is obvious. But if you have a clump of salt molecules and it looses its saltiness. Is it adding other elements and/or loosing some essential elements?
Now we can say that there are many essential elements of a good worship service time but the most important is a godly lifestyle untainted by the world. If the unbelievers are not flocking here to know more about God it is because of two problems. Either we are not living or we are not telling. The point is when you have a nonbeliever come by and after church you start talking to him, that is good. But when you whip out your catalogues and start talking just like the people at work, he turns silently sad. He was hoping there was something in a Christian which he could maybe find hope in. But when your mind is on the world. You are focused on getting a better job or running like the world runs. He just gives up on Christianity. Why? Because you have lost your salt brother or sister! Some people might come here just to eat Chinese food or be with like faces, but there is another reason. They are looking for hope that there is something out in this world that will bring hope. The more we think, live and act like the world, the more we have lost our salt and good for nothing but being tread upon.
But instead, if we get serious with the Lord about calling us to be the salt of the world, and we allow God to begin to remake our whole lives, we see a transformation that is simply radical - but in a good way. Most people think of godly people as dull and having no fun. As far as I know, people who are dull and not having fun are sad and depressed people. But when I look in to the world, all I see is people who are sad and depressed. They are miserably bored. They are lonely. They have no meaning in life. The world only looks forward to exciting and frantic moments of life when the lottery number is selected or the drug is taking affect or the sin is affecting his or her body, but after the seconds of excitement wears off, they live in constant guilt, pain, misery and boredom until the next peak of excitement comes.
Do you think Jesus was dull and sad? Of course not. He was the most godly person there was, full of love. Don’t you love being loved? Wouldn’t you love to be one of those loving people? Each of the beatitudes begins with the word “Happy” or “blessed” because the only way to overcome the sadness of the world is to live in harmony with the Creator. The world by definition lives in opposition to the Creator. It gets tired and depressed because it is always in a fight with God. However, when you understand your new calling to be happy all the time, you are floored. You can’t believe God wants to pour this much love and grace upon you. And admittedly, it is a lot of love and grace we need to get there. And when we can affirm our desire to be like Christ, to be of godly character and not like the world, God is then released to pour extra grace into our lives to make us more like Him.
Let me remind you that we can all lose our salt. Christian life must be lived in the present not in the past or future. We live now in the presence of God. God is with us now working in our lives.
Os Guiness says, “The problem with Christians in America is not that Christians aren't where they should be; the problem is that they're not what they should be right where they are.” -Os Guiness in Radix, Vol 20
Application What is God asking of you today? Have you lost your saltiness? Have you sided with the world? Could you now confess your waywardness, and ask Him for forgiveness? Have you lost your goal of being like Jesus? Commit yourself now to memorize the beatitudes and more than that you are asking Him to make them your living principles of life.
Again, I don’t want to get into the physics of light. I would love to. Light fascinates me. But Jesus starts off essentially as He did before. He places all the responsibility and success of the kingdom of God on us! It is simply amazing. If before we talked about quality, now we are focusing on marketing, before about living, now communicating. The only thing Jesus wants us to know about light is its natural need to be displayed. We all are very familiar with these things called lights. It is one thing to have a light switched off. That is our choice. But who would turn a light on except to have the light shine forth. Who would purposely turn a light on and then shut the light in? No one. The only exception I know of is when I was in Singapore. They put lights in the closets on so the bugs would be able to see what they were doing. No. But because of high humidity - before air-conditioning, the light would give off a little bit of heat to keep down the humidity so clothes would not spoil so easily.
As a Christian, your light has been turned on by God. You have been born from above. If we look carefully at verse 16, we will see that it is the good works that are the actual light waves. If in the first point above, our heart and attitudes began to change the way we relate to people, care for people and help people. Our motivation of life has changed from forcing on what we like and want to what God wants. We then will naturally have a life of good works testifying to the Lord’s love.
Let us just note the change of heart if a person now understands the great mercy with which God treats a him. Now he will treat his money as God’s not his own. He will be willing to give it to the poor because he really cares about the people in need rather than to look good or get rid of his guilt. Or maybe he will begin to see the need for caring for his parents from a whole different light. When he did not focus on being like Christ, he was set on winning every fight. His fights were silent but mean. But when he started molding himself to be a peacemaker, he began to see how to be reconciled with his parents and genuinely care for their needs.
This church is indeed a church of good works. So many of you are busy helping other people. Some of you make meals for others. Some drive people around. Some spending long time in discussing other people’s problems. This is the way we should be. The warmth stemming from these ‘light’ works is enough to communicate that God’s love is here.
In summary, let me close with a few observations.
• It is totally inadequate to have good works without the right light. Many Christians are instantly challenged by helping someone in a practical way. This is good and yet we need to be careful have we first been caught in pursuing Christ Himself. Otherwise the good works are done out of wrong motive and will fade away in time. This is the person who does not have salt. The light will be only the wavelength of the world.
• We also need to be concerned about only having salt and not displaying our light. In fact, though there are many Christians pretending to be salty, they have to face the facts that genuinely pursuing Christ will always produce the light of good works. James said that if they say they have faith but no good works is deluded. Jesus said the same thing in a different way when He said that those who abide in Him and in His Word, will bear fruit.
We must not focus on either social works or having a spiritual life. For Jesus spiritual means rightly relating to people you don’t like. We must stop faking a spiritual life when we see little good works coming from our lives. In the end we will see God’s work in us when people see our good works and don’t applaud us but God’s remarkable work in their lives through us.
Tozer has said,
I thought that it didn’t really matter whether I shared Christ with others. I thought it didn’t make much of a difference on whether on knew the truth of God’s principles or actually lived them out. The difference is between light and darkness, life and death, hope and despair. You might have heard of these principles but considered them immaterial because you are doing okay. You don’t need to get that serious with God. But if you are genuinely a Christian, remember the blood of those about you will be on your own hands. You have become as impure salt and a hidden light.
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