San Jose

Mercy Hill Church of San Jose | Sermons

Salt and Light

Salt and Light
Matthew 5:13-16

Let’s turn to Matthew 5.  If you need a Bible go ahead and raise your hand and we will bring one to you.  Matthew 5 is on page 809 in the Bibles we are passing out.

To show you why this passage is so important, let’s go back to the first 200 years of the church.  During this time there was terrible persecution, and believers were imprisoned and often killed.  But that changed in 313 AD when Christianity became the official religion of Rome.

As a result, all the persecution stopped – and almost everyone became Christian in name.  But – the church became lukewarm, and was virtually indistinguishable from the world.

 So what should those do who were genuinely born-again and passionately loved Jesus?  What should they do?

What they did was well-intended.  But it was a mistake.  They tried to separate from the world by forming monasteries.  These were communities of men and communities of women which were totally separated from the world -- no interaction, no relationship, and no involvement with the world.

But why was it a mistake to separate from the world?  It’s because separating from the world made it impossible for them to obey what Jesus said in the next section of the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5:13-16 –

13            "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.

14            "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.

15            Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.

16            In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Here Jesus uses two word-pictures.  He says that we His followers are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  Let’s start with salt.

What does it mean to be the salt of the earth?  At that time salt had two main uses – it gave flavor to food – like we put salt on French Fries, and it preserved food – since they had no way to refrigerate their meat.  So when Jesus says we are the salt of the earth – is Jesus thinking of salt as flavor, or of salt as preservative?

Both are possible.  Both are biblical.  But which is Jesus teaching here?  The best way to answer that question is to look at the passage itself to see if Jesus gives us any clues.  So look again at v.13 --

13            “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its TASTE, how shall its SALTINESS be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.

So is Jesus thinking of salt as flavor, or of salt as preservative?  The only purpose

He mentions is flavor.  So I am going to assume that when Jesus says we are the salt of the earth – he’s thinking of us as giving flavor.

Think of a baked potato.  All by itself a baked potato is pretty bland.  Not much flavor.  But if you sprinkle on some salt – salt adds flavor.  And Jesus says we are the salt of the earth.  If your neighborhood or workplace had no believers – your neighborhood or workplace would be pretty bland – like a baked potato without salt.  But if you sprinkle a few followers of Jesus into your neighborhood or workplace – Mmm – that’s better.

So when we are sprinkled into a neighborhood or workplace – what does the world taste?  The answer is in v.16.  In v.16 Jesus is talking about us being the light of the world – but what he says here is also the point of us being the salt of the earth.  Look again at v.16 -- 

16            In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

What the world tastes is the glory of God – the one taste that is infinitely more tasty than any other taste.  When we taste His goodness, truth, majesty, love, compassion, beauty – that’s the taste our spiritual tastebuds were meant to enjoy.

And how does the world taste the glory of God?  Through our good works.  Our love, humility, honesty, and compassion – coupled with our words about Jesus – will show them – God fills our hearts – God satisfies our souls – God comforts us in our trials – God is glorious!

A little while back David Nees took his kids on a walk around the block and met the neighbors who live behind them.

They started talking and made a great connection, so this last week Dave and Kate had them over for dinner.  So there was this older couple, and David and Kate and their two children and Gi their exchange student – all having dinner together.

And knowing David and Kate – that couple saw a lot of good works.  That couple saw them serving food, saw their marriage, saw their love for their kids, heard the Gospel, saw their joy, saw their peace – they saw a lot of good works.

And in David and Kate’s good works this couple tasted something they maybe had never tasted before – the glory of the Father who is in heaven.  They tasted the glory of the Father’s love, the Father’s bounty, the Father’s goodness.

Do you see how that works?  Without that connection with David and Kate this couple might never have tasted the glory of God.  But David and Kate are salt in their neighborhood.  By their good works – their words and deeds – they gave this couple a taste of the Father’s glory.

And what does it mean to be the light of the world?  Read vv.14-16 again --

14            "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.

15            Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.

16            In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

If there’s no believers in your neighborhood – your neighborhood is dark.  If there’s no believers in your workplace – your workplace is dark.

But when believers move into your neighborhood – or get hired at your workplace – it’s like lights go on.  And what is the light that your neighbors or work-associates see?

Look again at v.16 –

16            In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

So the light they see is the light of God’s glory shining in our good works.

God so fills your heart that you babysit their kids.  God so pours His love into your heart that you invite them over for dinner or help with a project at work.  God give you such love for Jesus that you humbly speak of Jesus to them.  In all these good works they will see God’s glory shining.

The Garcias have been shining the light of God’s glory in their neighborhood for a long time.  But the power of that light was turned up last Sunday.

Last Sunday before church their hot water heater broke and was leaking into their family room.  And Joe was not able to turn the water off.  So he texted some guys in his home group – and Rick Park and Steve Darrow and Jason Madden left here half-way through the service and helped Joe turn the water off.  Then Jason Madden spent the rest of the day taking out the old water heater and putting in a new one.

The neighbors know that the Garcias and their friends love Jesus.  And so as Rick, Steve, and Jason gave of their time and joyfully served the Garcias – those good works showed the neighbors even more of God’s glory.

So what does it mean to be the light of the world?  It means that by our good works – our words and deeds – we give people the light of the Father’s glory.

And it’s clear from how Jesus puts it that this is terribly important.  YOU are the salt of the earth.  YOU are the light of the world.  This is not some side issue for some of us.  Every follower of Jesus is to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

But why is that so importantLook again at v.16 --

16            In the same way, let your light shine before others, SO THAT they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

It’s because when we are salt and light – people in our neighborhoods and workplaces will be so impacted that they give glory to God.  What does that mean?

It means they have repented of their sins and trusted Jesus as Savior, Lord, and Treasure.  It means they have been forgiven.  Set free from Satan’s kingdom.  Transferred into God’s kingdom.

That’s why it’s so crucial that we be salt and light in our neighborhoods and workplaces.  It’s because this is how God saves people.  If your neighbors have no one being salt and light to them – they will not be saved.  If your work-associates have no one being salt and light to them – they will not be saved.

We must be salt and light.

But notice that in these verses Jesus says something can go wrong with both the salt and the light.

What can go wrong with the salt?  Look again at v.13 --

13            “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.

What can go wrong?  We can lose our taste – lose our saltiness.  How can that happen?  It’s when we lose our passion for Jesus because we’re captured by some other passion.  And without love for Jesus – we no longer taste salty.

So if you have lost your taste – what happens when you are sprinkled into the baked potato of your neighborhood or your workplace.  What happens?  Nothing.  Nobody tastes anything different.  You have lost your flavor.  You taste no different than the baked potato. 

So ask yourself – are you salt with full flavor – or are you salt with no flavor?  Does your talk display God’s goodness?  Or is it full of gossip and complaining and bitterness?  Do your actions show God’s love?  Or are they full of self-centeredness?  Do your words show God’s salvation?  Or is Jesus never mentioned?

Now notice how seriously Jesus takes this issue of salt losing its flavor.  He said – if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  There is an eternal danger in losing your saltiness.  But the good news is that before you reach that stage, there’s something you can do.  What?

Go back to the beginning of the beatitudes.  If you will turn to Jesus and admit that you are poor in spirit – that you don’t have much saltiness -- He will bring upon you the power of the Kingdom and start to change you.  And then as you mourn over your sin – and trust Jesus to forgive you, change you, fill you – He will comfort you.

And you will feel your heart change.  You will feel the Holy Spirit restoring the joy of your salvation.  You will feel God’s love pouring into Your heart.  You will taste the glory of your Father in heaven.  Your saltiness will be back.

But Jesus also says there’s something that can go wrong with the light.  What can go wrong with the light?  Look at what Jesus says in vv.14-15 --

14            "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.

15            Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.

What can go wrong is that we hide the light.  Why would we hide our light?  Because we are afraid.  We don’t want to be rejected, or mocked, or ostracized.

So we don’t meet our neighbors.  We don’t have lunch with people at work.  Of if we do meet our neighbors and have lunch with people at work – we never speak of Jesus – because we are afraid.

So what can we do about that fear?  Don’t just feel guilty.  Don’t just grit your teeth and try hard not to fear.  No.  Jesus gave us the verses right before this section to set us free from fear.  So pray over vv.10-12 until you feel the Holy Spirit free you from fear –

10            "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Think of the kingdom of heaven – all your sins forgiven through the Cross, God’s presence in your life, God’s love satisfying you now and forever.  Pray over that until the reality of the kingdom makes you fearless. 

Then vv.11-12 --

11            "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

12            Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.Your reward in heaven is great.  Pray over that until the Holy Spirit gives you such a sense of that reward that it would make any persecution entirely worth it. 

And then – when you are free from fear – ask Jesus – what would you have me do in my neighborhood?  What would you have me do in my workplace?  And then do it.

This week in our home groups let’s talk about this.  Let’s pray for each other.  Let’s encourage each other.  And then let’s be salt and light – and in our neighborhoods and workplaces people will be saved.

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