This morning, we’re again being reminded of God’s vision for each of us this year. That vision is that we be the people that God calls us to be: Salt & Light. Jesus said:
Matthew 5:13-16 (KJV)
13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We are salt & light according to Jesus. However, what does that really mean? How can we get our lives in alignment with God’s word so that we become who God says that we are? I like the way in which these verses are written in The Message version of the Bible. Listen closely to this thought-for-thought, paraphrase translation of the words that Jesus spoke:
Matthew 5:13-16 (MSG)
13 “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
14-16 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, our generous Father in heaven.
What is church? Well, let’s start with what church is not. Church is not a building, it is not an organization, it is not a business, it is not a charity, it is not a person. Church is us, people who put their faith in Jesus and choose daily to follow Him.
It is interesting to think of this way. God’s plan of salvation started with a temple. First, it was a tent, then a building where His Presence dwelt. People would go there to meet with God, to worship and serve Him.
Next, God’s plan of salvation became a man. God’s word became flesh just like us as Jesus lived the perfect life and then gave up that life to pay the debt that we owed. God not only became like us in all of our weaknesses and temptations, but overcame them all. God met with us and served us.
God’s plan of salvation then moved onto what it is today. Jesus rose again to life and sent the Holy Spirit. Now, we are temples of God housing the very Presence of God through the Holy Spirit. All the works that Jesus did, we continue doing. As Paul put it, we are the body of Christ; His physical presence in the world today.
We continue this work looking forward to the final step in God’s plan of salvation when we are brought back together with Him when Jesus makes all things new and we put the current order of things behind us including pain, death, sorrow, and sickness.
So what is church? Church is a community of people united by their faith in Jesus and the infilling of the Holy Spirit. The members of the church are whoever choose to follow Jesus. We are many people from all tribes, nations, tongues, social statuses, traditions, and heritages. Though we are different in just about every way, we are united by the only thing that really matters; our faith.
Jesus said that we are the salt of the earth. The Message translation says that we are here to be the salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. Though this world may be fallen and so corrupted by sin, there is still hope. God purposefully chose us to be ones who are powerfully transformed by His great love and mercy. Through the Holy Spirit, we can prophetically see God’s potential in every person and every circumstance. We can bring hope into even the darkest of places.
In fact, Jesus also said that we are the light of the world. When we accepted His free gift of salvation, He filled us with His great and glorious light. His purpose wasn’t that we would keep it to ourselves, but that we would extend His open invitation to everyone we know. He didn’t save us and set us free so that we could privately have a relationship with Him, He saved us and set us free so that we would shout from the rooftops just how awesome He is and all that He has done for us.
Think of it this way, the church is like a salt block where we come together to seek after God. We’re like salt shakers that are filled with His Presence. We were all created in the image of God. We’re all created like salt shakers designed for fellowship with God. Due to sin, we are born empty and we sense that void. We try to fill our lives with anything and everything, but nothing is ever enough. This void can only be truly filled and satisfied by God’s Presence.
Again, the church is like an eternal flame where we come together to seek after God. We’re like candles that are set ablaze by His Spirit. We’re all created as these candles intended to carry the light of God. Due to sin, we are born in darkness and continue in that darkness unless we’re introduced to Jesus, the light.
All around us, people are spiritually empty in desperate need of God’s salvation. They are in need of the gift that we’ve been freely given. For us to know God personally, to enjoy the fullness of His salvation, to have tasted and seen just how awesome God is and then to keep that to ourselves is just wrong. It is the heart and will of God that everyone would receive His salvation.
To be salt and light is the privilege of those who follow Jesus and have received His salvation; His forgiveness, healing, deliverance, and mercy. However, it was never intended to be a private or exclusive privilege. Rather, it is available for all mankind.
We, who have been forgiven so much and who have been raised from death to life, have one of the greatest gifts that anyone could ever receive. It is available to any who are willing to accept it. Why keep quiet about it? Why hide it under a bushel or bowl or bucket or anything else? What do we have to lose? What are we so afraid of? As Jesus said:
26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
Just like the old Public Service Announcements used to teach us back in the 90’s after school TV, “Don’t be afraid, be a friend!” Jesus is saying to all of us here this morning, “I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand – shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, our generous Father in heaven.”
It isn’t good enough for us to be filled with salt or light by Jesus if we just hide it and keep it to ourselves. Instead, we’re being called to be like Jesus. Take the light into the darkest corners of our community and the earth. Take the salt into the most tasteless of situations. Sit down and eat with the tax collectors, prostitutes, drunks, addicts, and diseased. Be their friend truly and sincerely. Befriend them because that’s exactly what Jesus did.
Open up your life to others and do good for them and with them. Invite them into your life and they’ll invite you into theirs. As if the example lead by Jesus and the early church throughout the Old Testament were not enough for us to be convinced that this is the will of God, His very word makes this request of us:
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
This is being salt and light. This is living as Jesus lived. This is church. Jesus did not only give His life as His blood was poured out on the cross. Jesus lived His life publicly. He shared it with the least of these. He not only preached this, but He lived this. One day, we all will stand before Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords and my hope and prayer is that we would all have this conversation with Him:
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
This is being salt and light. Salt that is kept inside of its salt shaker is useless and a waste. Light that is kept hidden under a bowl is useless and a waste. Perfume kept inside of its bottle is useless and a waste. To pour out these things is not a waste, it is the only way for their true value to be realized and displayed. The blood of Jesus was never considered of any value until He was broken and it was poured out to cover the sins of all mankind.
Even so, our salvation, if it is not poured out of our lives and into the lives of those around us, is useless and a waste. Even as James wrote:
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Our faith is only of any value when we choose to pour out our lives and open them up to those around us. It is only when we sacrifice ourselves and lay down our lives that Jesus is able to meet us there and truly give us life. He lived it, preached it, and then declared it over us. You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.
This morning, we are being commissioned. This is no time for shyness or timidity. God’s Kingdom is a Kingdom of power and resolve! It is a Kingdom of commitment and courage. If you’ve never received the free gift of God’s salvation, if you have grown lukewarm in your faith, or if you are simply hungry for more, this morning is the time to come to Jesus that He may fill us to overflowing with the fullness of His salvation.
Together, let’s seek after Him! Together, let’s pour out our lives and befriend those around us who desperately need Jesus even as someone once did for us!