Our text this morning is Matthew 5:13-16 where we see Jesus use the metaphor of Christians being both salt and light. I referred to these as being the fruits of a robust faith so let us think about that a little.
The salt we would be most familiar with is iodized table salt. When you consider table salt there are some interesting things to note. It is coarse to the touch, has a distinct flavor profile, and performs a unique function. How is that a metaphor for the Christian faith? In short, to the world, we are coarse, we definitely have a unique function and profile.
A little background information:
In the ancient world, and even still today, salt was a preservative. During the time before refrigerators, salt was rubbed on meat to prevent putrification. In biology, we notice that salt is an essential element for life (a critical electrolyte) and saltiness is one of the four taste sensations.
Have you ever heard that a person was “worth his salt?” That is because salt was such a valuable commodity that it became useful as a form of currency.
So what does any of this have to do with Christians and our faith? Well, a person full of the Holy Spirit and demonstrating the character traits in the Beatitudes will have a preserving influence on the world.
“Wherever there is a strong Christian emphasis and a strong Christian voice, that society is being preserved and maintained. But whenever the Christian voice begins to wane, that society begins to deteriorate and ultimately be destroyed.
And take a look at history and notice the preserving influence of Christianity, as long as it remained strong and a dynamic influence within the community, the community was strong and powerful. Look at the United States, we were formed on Christian principles. Tremendously heavy Christian influence in the forming of this nation and thus written into our very Constitution those safeguards to protect that religious freedom, freedom of worship and assembly in all because the Christian influence was strong and we weren’t afraid to say, “One nation under God”. But through the years, the Christian voice has been weakened in its influence upon our society. And we can see those rotting forces that are beginning to erode away the very foundations of our democracy, as we see children being exploited for sexual purposes, as we see child pornography being produced and purchased.” —Chuck Smith
- Campbell Morgan said, “Jesus, looking out over the multitudes of His day, saw the corruption, the disintegration of life at every point, its breakup, its spoliation; and, because of His love of the multitudes, He knew the thing that they needed most was salt in order that the corruption should be arrested. He saw them also wrapped in gloom, sitting in darkness, groping amid mists and fogs. He knew that they needed, above everything else…light” (The Gospel According to Matthew [New York: Revell, 1929], p. 46).
We are living in a world full of filthiness, though it is no small thing for the world to live in its filthiness; no the world celebrates its filth and puts its debauchery on display. They demand celebration of their filth; celebrate or be destroyed. Don’t believe me? Try reading a news story about Christian owned businesses that do not capitulate to the LGBT agenda. Each story is a testimony to the demands of the world, celebrate us or be destroyed.
Let’s look back to Genesis Chapter six. This is the account of the Noahic Flood and Covenant. Genesis 6:5 “The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil”
I wish that I could say it was different today but it is not. Our society is consistently and totally evil.
In the OT salt is most often a purifying agent (Ex 30:35; Lv 2:13; 2Ki 2:21; Ezek 16:4). As the salt of the earth, Jesus’ disciples are to purify a corrupt world through their example of righteous living and their proclamation of the gospel.
In the Bible, darkness is a metaphor for sin. Let us take a look at the conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus…
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. (John 3:17-21)
It’s safe to say that “living in darkness” general means “living in sin”. And while “sin” can be described in terms of actions, like murder or fornication, it ultimately means rebellion against or rejection of God. Christians are those people who no longer walk in darkness because they live with God as their king. Non-Christian people, even if they “live a good life,” continue to reject God and therefore remain in darkness.
How many people, upon being asked why they should be allowed into Heaven answer with, “I’m basically a good person?” Without going down a different road and travelling far into the Doctrines of Grace in Salvation, I want to assure you that, “I’m basically a good person” is nothing more than a fiction that we comfort ourselves with. It is written, there is none righteous or there is no one who seeks to do good. (ROMANS 3:10–12; PSALM 14:1–3; PSALM 53:1–3) Paul further points out that in the flesh dwells no good thing (Romans 7:8)
If being a “good person” is a fiction, why do so many people buy into this idea? The terrifying answer to that question is found in Isaiah 9:6 (I’m paraphrasing), “Hear but don’t understand. See but do not learn anything.” God has decreed that they will stay in darkness.
Being Light as a Christian
“Jesus also calls us to be light. You are the light of the world. Whereas salt is hidden, light is obvious. Salt works secretly, while light works openly. Salt works from within, light from without. Salt is more the indirect influence of the gospel, while light is more its direct communication. Salt works primarily through our living, while light works primarily through what we teach and preach. Salt is largely negative. It can retard corruption, but it cannot change corruption into incorruption. Light is more positive. It not only reveals what is wrong and false but helps produce what is righteous and true.” (John MacArthur)
2 Corinthians 4:6
6 For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
What does this really mean when we say Christians are the light of the world? It means that we are so full of the Holy Spirit, so steeped in Scripture, and so focused on Jesus that our actions overflow with his presence and the world sees and gives glory to God because of it. I do not want to set false expectations with you, most of the world will not glorify God even in the face of your acts of righteousness; nearly the whole of Revelation is filled with the tale of the obstinate wicked that demand any other god but YHWH, any other savior but Jesus. Be assured though, that some will see and some will hear and will be converted.
Some thoughts from Chuck Swindoll
“When you’re willing to be salt and light in the world, you cultivate in people an appetite for God.
First, live right and start praying. These two go together. Each of us lives in a neighborhood or a community. Each of us works or lives around people who are lost. Each of us is engaged in activities alongside lost people. Live right and start praying. When you pray, think outside the box. You’re not just praying for another person. You’re praying that you will have the opportunity to strike a match where there’s only darkness or to shake some salt on a life that has become bland.
Second, care about and reach out. Start simply by being friendly. You might practice smiling regularly. People are drawn to those who smile. It is amazing! I’ve had the most fantastic conversations in grocery stores that have started just because I’m smiling.
Third, be available and listen. Listen, for a change. Don’t do all the talking. When you’re available—when people know you will listen—they will tell you their needs, their worries, their concerns. They will share their hearts with you. Care enough to enter into where they are. Laugh with them, cry with them, sigh with them. Tell them you care. You may not have the answers and you may not be able to solve their problems, but you can do a lot for people just by being available and listening.
Fourth, share your faith openly and follow through. Be ready. When the opportunity is right, when you sense that the Spirit is guiding you to share your faith, don’t hold back. As Peter says, “If someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it” (1 Pet. 3:15).
When you’re willing to be salt and light in the world, you cultivate in people an appetite for God—or at least a curiosity. You become a phenomenon to them because you live in the same world they do yet live with a totally different attitude. It makes them wonder what gives you that kind of joy. Trust me—people will ask, and they will listen. Be ready to tell them the answer: It’s the Good News about Jesus Christ.”
I called being salt and light the fruit of a robust faith and before we go, I want to develop that a little.
The Object of our Faith
For our faith to have any efficacy, at all, it must have a sure object. This is a total contrast to when people in the world tell you that you need to “have faith” or “keep the faith.” Aside from the fact that they are speaking nonsense based in ignorance, what they really mean is to stay positive. Not withstanding what Norman Vincent Peale or Robert Schuller may have told you, being positive does not have anywhere near the impact on our faith that the world would have you to believe it does.
Join me in Hebrews 11
We read the first verses this morning and I want to turn your attention to the last 8 verses:
32 How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions,34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death.
But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half,[d] and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.
The Triune God is the object of our faith. This is the central truth that underscores all we will do here. We believe in God the Father and all the truth that He has revealed to us, we believe in God the Son (who is Jesus our Lord) and His atoning death and resurrection, we believe in the Holy Spirit who indwells us and empowers us to desire righteousness and to carry out that desire.
The Actions of our Faith
Being consumed with the Lord, we minister to others as ambassadors of the King. James, in his epistle, tells us exactly what the actions of our faith look like: James 1:27
27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
The Results of our Faith
“By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions,34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death.”
Ultimately, the results of our faith will be that others are converted through our witness.
WAIT!!! If the salt loses its saltiness…that sounds like losing salvation! Don’t worry, that isn’t what Jesus means. If you “lose your saltiness” you are losing your influence. Cheap salts that were found near the dead sea were easily corrupted and lost their flavor. Continuing the metaphor, a Christian who falls into sin will lose their influence in the world.
You are secure in Christ so you will not lose your salvation, but influence? That can definitely be lost. Now you may hear references to a person who has “fallen from grace” but I want to tell you that this cannot happen. You cannot fall from grace. You absolutely can fall into sin and you can grieve the Holy Spirit which of necessity will bring chastisement but if you are a true Christian, the indwelling Holy Spirit, who is the embodiment of grace, does not leave you. To be sure, you will feel a difference in the relationship and this is part of His chastening but Jesus said, ” And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28). Be on your guard against sin, daily, but do not despair of losing your salvation. Jesus never lies and no one will ever pluck us from His.
There is a price to pay, while we walk on this earth when we sin. At the same time, we are pardoned, forever, from the eternal price of our sin. Sin has penalties and leaves scars on our lives. This is that “losing saltiness.” If you do fall into sin, or have fallen into sin, you can be restored; you will, most likely, not have the same influence on the world that you had before, but be assured that when you come for forgiveness and restoration, you will find it. You could say that God will give you a new light bulb so you can shine for Him again.