Last month I had the joy of walking you through Jesus’ teaching on the Beatitudes and together we were able to discover some amazing truths to help ourselves in our walk with God. If you missed those sermons, don’t worry. You can get to them by going here.
Tonight I want us to consider another important portion of scripture recorded in the same passage as the Beatitudes. Once again please turn your Bibles to the Gospel of Matthew chapter 5. We will read verses 13 through 16, (Matthew 5:13-16). Some of you might question the necessity for this sermon because many other sermons have been preached from these verses before. This sermon, however, is going to be a much simple and easy-to-understand version.
[Preaching the undiluted truth in a simple manner is a challenging task. I spent countless hours writing and rewriting these notes until I was certain this is precisely what the Holy Spirit wants me to tell. So here’s another sermon to help you in your walk with Christ. If you are a Preacher yourself please feel free to use these notes in any way you see fit.]
1. Salt of the Earth
It’s interesting that this is a phrase commonly used outside the Bible also. While there is an award-winning Biographical Documentary Film titled ‘Salt of the Earth‘ according to the Meriam-Webster Dictionary it’s a phrase used to refer to people of good character.
But why did Jesus say we are the Salt of the Earth? Salt is a unique chemical compound. There’s nothing else like it. Jesus was implying we ought to be a different kind of people. The question is what makes us different from the rest of the world? We must go back to the original language in which the New Testament was written to find the answer.
The Greek word for salt is ‘halas’ which means prudent. Prudence manifests itself in many different ways. However, the book of Colossians says “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6) Here for salt Paul is using the same Greek word as Matthew. Then prudence is the defining characteristic of a disciple and it manifests through our words.
Now Salt cannot lose its flavor because it’s a stable compound. If so why did Jesus say ‘But if the salt loses its flavor, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people.’ (Matthew 5:13)
In the ancient days unlike now salt was not harvested through means of vaporization. Salt was harvested using much less reliable methods. The salt harvested using such methods was unclean sometimes and often ended up being thrown into the street and trodden under the feet of people walking by.
Jesus is saying we can choose to be prudent or imprudent. Just like salt without savor is useless so is the imprudent Christian because there’s no substitute for a prudent Christian.
How do we choose to be prudent? The Bible says ‘For the mouth speaks from what fills the heart.’ (Matthew 12:34b) It also warns us to guard the heart above everything else. ‘Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it are the sources of life.’ (Proverbs 4:23). If you want to be a prudent Christian you must start by changing your heart.
2. Light of the World
Now we move from the metaphor of the ‘Salt of the Earth’ to the ‘Light of the World’. The Gospel of John says Jesus is the true light, (John 1:9). Then why did Jesus call us the light of the world? It’s obvious we are not the light ourselves. I can think of at least three reasons.
First, Jesus was basically saying our lifestyle should be a manifestation of his light. The Greek word ‘phos’ used by Matthew in place of light here gives the meaning ‘manifest’. The Amplified Version makes this a lot clearer. It says “You are the light of Christ to the world.” Jesus is not saying we are the light ourselves but witnesses of his light.
Second, I told you we can choose to be prudent or imprudent. Jesus is giving us another choice here. We can choose to be the witnesses of light or inhabitants of darkness. It’s important that we understand darkness is not the opposite of light as many seem to believe. The Meriam-Webster Dictionary defines dark as the absence of light. Likewise light becomes absent when our lifestyle contradicts God’s expressed will allowing darkness to take over, (John 12:35).
Third, Jesus is calling us to be different a second time. (The first time was when he said we are the salt of the earth.) He is implying that the difference between a disciple and a non-believer should be no lesser than the sharp contrast that exists between dark and light. In fact, when non-believers see us they should be convinced of the darkness engulfing their own lives.
What must we do to become witnesses of light? The 1st Epistle by St. John says this. “In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind.” (1 John 1:4) We become witnesses of Jesus’ light through our relationship with him. Interestingly John talks about this relationship with Jesus several times.
• Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and take up residence with him. (John 14:23)
• “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him—bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing.” (John 15:5)
• What we have seen and heard we announce to you too, so that you may have fellowship with us (and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ). Thus we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (1 John 1:3-4)
Finally being witnesses of Jesus’ light isn’t enough. It’s not beneficial to others unless we let that light shine. With that, we come to the third metaphor which is ‘The City set on a Hill’.
3. The City set on a Hill
Ancient towns were often built of white limestone. They gleamed in the Sun during the day and at night the inhabitants’ oil lamps would shed a glow over the surrounding area. Hence these cities served as beacons for directing travelers toward the city as they could be spotted from miles away at night as well as in broad daylight. So Jesus’ audience knew exactly what he was talking about. In the same way, we also must help the weary pilgrims of life to find their way to Christ by shining his light for him.
Then Jesus shifts the focus of his audience from the glow of a city to the glow of a single household. In the ancient Middle East, houses were lit using small clay lamps. Since those houses were simple one-room structures placing the lamp on a lampstand gave light to the entire house. Jesus used this earthly example to teach a spiritual lesson. That is we should not blend in with unbelievers for the fear of offending them because such behavior is like lighting a lamp and putting it under a basket indeed.
Shining your light isn’t always a pleasant experience because the light is not welcomed everywhere for it exposes the works of darkness. The Bible says “But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them.” (Ephesians 5:13 – NLT) We have to decide whether we want to please God or please men before we can shine our light before others, (John 12:42-43)
Jesus said we shine our light through our good works. In Greek ‘works’ is translated as ‘ergon’. It means ‘labor’. Labour is the price of good works. Unless you are willing to pay the price you cannot shine your light.
In closing, I would like to share a thought which happened to cross my mind while preparing this sermon. As God has called us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world it makes us the most important group of people on the surface of this earth. It should be our prayer that the Holy Spirit will equip us with His grace to live a life worthy of that calling.
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