So, we are starting a series this year that should take us through the first half of the year, I have humbly called it “The greatest sermon ever” now I am not saying that my sermon or this series is going to the be the best sermon ever, but we are going to look at Jesus’ famous sermon; commonly known as the sermon on the mount. It is so full of life and power for us to live in this world, that I truly believe that the content of what Jesus said is so important for the church and for us today as we move more and more into a world that seems to be filled with fear and uncertainty.
So tonight, we start this series with Jesus’ first section which I have titled “The Greatest Sermon Ever On Changing The World.”
Our text for tonight is
Matthew 5:13-16 New International Version (NIV)
Salt and Light
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
So, to understand this message we have to see the context of where it is situated, Jesus is preaching of the kingdom of God, stating that the King has come, and through us living under this king we are bringing his rule to the world.
So, when he speaks here of us being salt and light, it must be in the context of this kingdom reality, which is a gospel reality (I’ll explain this as we go through tonight), but more so it is speaking to us on an individual level but also as a communal reality.
What do I mean? Well, all that we will be covering over the next 19 weeks is never meant to be interpreted solely as a private life application, it is spoken into a community and is meant for communal application. So, when Jesus says you are salt and light he is speaking to you as an individual, yes, but the application is to you (church) as a community.
Okay with that in mind let’s look at what Jesus is saying here, well the first reality that we must see in this statement is that this community that Jesus is speaking to, who by grace have being welcomed into the Kingdom have the power to change the world. And by implication here church…
1. You can change the world
In fact, if you read this passage carefully you will see that we change the world not by what we do (although that is important) but more by who we are.
Look at what Jesus says; “You are salt…”, “You are light…” we must not miss the implication of all this; because if we do we will never be able to handle what Jesus is going to teach us in the coming week.
Jesus is stating that our ability to be salt and light is not something we apply to our lives, I must just be more salty in the world, or brighter (whatever that might mean).
No, He states this as a reality of our being; we are salt in this world and we are light in this world. This is a profound realisation – when we get it – and is so contradictory to anything other world-view. Because everywhere else in this world, and in every other religion you are because of your effort.
You want to be popular, be good at something. If you want to achieve success be brilliant at what you do. If you want self-worth and acceptance, do and you will be accepted.
And every religion in the world replicates this message; you want God to like you, you want to go to heaven, or paradise etc. apply yourself to doing good, to following the rules, and if you do enough you will be accepted.
Now the main problem with this world-view, is that it is great at establishing social cohesion, in other words its great in seeing who tries harder and who is worth of promotions etc, but it is terrible for relationships. So, this works great in the work place and terribly at home.
Imagine it in this way. Imagine that you are looking for a marriage partner, and you find someone, and so out of the gate, you walk up to them and state; in order for this to work this is my list of requirements for a marriage partner, stay fit, cook well, keep yourself well-groomed and work hard at always winning my affection…
Only the most insane would think that is a good way to start, and maintain relationships. And in fact, it violates what we want deep down, all of us deep down want to be loved for who we are. And in fact, men, your girlfriend or wife will test you on this often. They will ask you that question; why do you love me? Men recognise this is a trap! Because if you answer I love you because you are beautiful, they will answer you instantly; what happens if I get fat or ugly? Aaaand just like that you are in trouble!
The answer they want, and in fact the answer we all want deep down, is, “I love you because I love you.” In other words, I love you for being you, with all your nuances and flaws.
Now, this is why the gospel is so powerful and effective for human change, is because it is the love we long for, from the being we were made for, it is your creator, the one who purposed you into existence, saying, I love you to death! Saying, I love you so much I am going to take your guilt and shame, and take it upon myself, so that I can love you for just being you!
This is what makes the gospel unique, and throughout the New Testament writings you will see this applied in that over and over again we are declared something so that we can live it out. You are children of God, you are heirs, you are a kingdom of priests, etc! therefore live as such.
And here again is the declaration, you are salt you are light, and for the next two chapters Jesus applies that to our lives, but the inherent reality is a statement of grace. Not because you deserve it but because you belong to Him; you are salt and light!
And this is very powerful in terms of a way of thinking, and it alone has enough power to actually change the world; and this powerful reality is that you are because you belong to Him salt and light!
In other words, church, the power to change the world does not lie so much in what we do (although you will see that matters) but in who we are because we belong to the King! To apply this today; you will not change the world, Your king will through the gospel! Through you, because of what He has made you!
To really simplify it so that you can take this home and apply it; it is not up to you to change the world it is up to the gospel to change the world, and you have the gospel! So, preach the gospel! Be like Paul in Romans 1:16-17
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,[a] just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”[b]
So, through the gospel we can change the world, it is because Christ has saved us and taken away our guilt that we stand as new people, salt and light the next reality is how does this actually work, or…
2. How do you change the world?
Well, we live out what we are as a community and as individuals we live out this reality of grace by being salt and light to the world we live in.
So, let’s look at what that looks like:
a.) Being salt
Jesus uses two very apt illustrations for what this new community of grace will do and what the people of this community will look like they will be salt and light; so, let’s look at salt; what does salt do?
Well, it preservers against decay, and it bring flavour. It also kills snails, but I don’t think Jesus had that use in mind…
But recognise that this is who we are because what Jesus has done for us; because of the gospel of Jesus, because there is now no condemnation we are salt to the world! The gospel makes us salt!
Now, as we have said salt preserves or it holds back decay. In other words, as the church lives out the gospel, or as the people live in their world with the gospel they preserve life. And we simply don’t have the time to get into the details, now, but will in the next few weeks, but it is the gospel and its principles that establish life and hold back the destructive forces, this is on a spiritual level and on a practical level.
Now there is a ton here, but to give you one example, almost all the rights that the West holds onto find their roots in Judo-Christian roots! Human dignity, and Human rights, are the expression of the Biblical expression that every person is infinitely valuable because we are made in the image of God. This is called inalienable rights, they can only be so because we value the human being and all human beings as uniquely created. You know where the West got these ideas? They are not self-evident and are not universal, they are a by-product of Christian teachings.
Now that is just one way, but as the gospel comes into your life, so you through grace, become a better father, child, citizen, friend. You preserve life, why? Well the premise is simply but profound; if God is true, then the principles that He shows us are those that cause human flourishing and life.
I believe that the gospel and the church when churches live out and hold tight to the gospel that they have a power to cause human flourishing and life!
Not only that but salt brings flavour, and this is quite an apt illustration, for the gospel community brings out the goodness of the community it finds itself in. In other words, we start to redefine our world-view through the lens of the gospel.
The best example of this; is the fact that when we get the gospel we know that Christ and Christ alone is our happiness and security so we take our effort in trying to get those things from the world, which actually improves our enjoyment of those things and our balance with them.
For example; work. Before Christ, I might see work as my meaning and source of joy and significance, therefore, I overwork at the expense of my family and heath. After the gospel, Christ becomes my meaning and source of joy, therefore, I can see work as what I am good at, but not my meaning for existence. Therefore, I gain a work life balance.
We are this kind of salt to the world we find ourselves in; next we are light.
b.) Being light
This illustrates the illuminative reality of the community of Grace. What does light do? It illuminates! It helps us see. And that is what we are as a community; we are the light that shines in the darkness to help people see. They will see their sin, and therefore their desperate need for a saviour, but also our love and the wonder of knowing that there is a God who loves them.
Being light means that we live out our truth in the world for people to see. We live out this grace reality. And this is something that we need to grapple with. For many of us live as if our faith is a private and personal matter. In other words, this is my truth, you have your truth, I have mine, let’s just keep it private.
But Jesus doesn’t give us that option, because the truth that He is sharing doesn’t allow itself to simply be a private matter. It is truth, it is reality, it is the only way to heal the human soul, to deal with the deep seeded reality of guilt and alienation that everyone has, it is the only hope for humanity to find life. And so, we must live this reality out.
It helps no-one to light a lamp and then hide it, we light a lamp to see, therefore, if Christ has brought you into His light, through the wonder of the Gospel, then He has done so that you can shine!
Essentially church, you want to change the world? There is one way;
“Know Him and make Him known.”