You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world

Ds J Bruintjes
Mattheus 5: 13 - 16
Preek Inhoud: 

Dear brothers and sisters, you are the salt of the earth.   You are the stopping the world from decay.  You are the light of the world.  Where the darkness does not reign.  And not just to us here.  But to the world.  To Bellville.  To Cape Town.  To the university, work, and home.  Where you go to the shopping center, movie theater, or beach.  Your job description as a disciple is not fulfilled simply by private personal holiness, but it is public exposure of Jesus to the world.  It is only when your live is visible to others that it can have a desired effect.

So is it visible?  Are you active in the world?  This is about all of life.  Do you know those who need Christ?  Are you showing Him to them?  This is about the implementation of God’s reign.  This is about helping people to be confronted with the kingdom of God.  This is about living the life Jesus died for.  A Spirit filled life.

And this is done not that people are impressed with you, but so that they glorify your Father in Heaven.

You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world:

  1. Be salty

  2. Be light


Be salty

In a 2nd century letter it says the following about Christians, " … they beget children, but they do not destroy their offspring.  They have a common table, but not a common bed.  They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh.  They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven.  They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives.  They love all men and are persecuted by all.  They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death and restored to life…  To sum it all up in one word -- what the soul is to the body, that are Christians in the world."

What the soul is to the body, that are Christians to the world.  As Christians, we are called not to be mere theoreticians, but practitioners.  Not just hearers, but doers.  We are called out of darkness into light to have a  real impact on society.  As real of an impact as a light has when turned on in a dark room.

You see, on the one hand we can be pessimists when it comes to culture, that we have no lasting influence on culture; on the other hand we can be optimists that we can create heaven on earth.  It is neither of these.  We are preserving.

If I had to venture to say I believe the church today thinks too little of its place in the broader culture and society.  Maybe because it has lost its saltiness, or its distinctiveness, that shows its radical difference from the world. 

John Stott says in a delightful article, “It’s ludicrous to say Christians can have no influence in society.  It’s biblically and historically mistaken.  Christianity has had an enormous influence on society down through its long and checkered history.”

Jesus is not a pessimist with regards to our impact on society – His one life transformed this world.  But neither is He an optimist, as his statements on persecution make perfectly clear. He is a realist and the images of salt and light show this.  Let me explain.

Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt loses 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.

We are the salt of the earth.  The Christian faith is preserving, it adds flavor, and it is transformational in culture.

It is preserving:  There is something beautiful about the church which conserves all that best of human society. We believe in the Lord of history who is building his kingdom through thousands of generations.  That is always building on the old, even while discarding the useless ideas.

Let’s start with Salt.  What is salt used for?  First it is used for preserving rotting meat.  Jesus is saying, culture is rotting.  The followers of Jesus Christ are the only preserving aspect in culture.  The church in worship, prayer, and life is the barrier that slows down the rotting of culture.  We do this by being crystal clear in our voice against evil in every form and wherever we find it.  In our hearts, in the church and in the world.  We speak to whoever will hear for the rights of the unborn, so less children are murdered.  We speak to whoever will hear about the abuse of creation, so the burden of human sin does not destroy this world.  We speak against all forms of oppression, corruption.  We are involved in the life of our city, of our nation.

How can you do this?  Be a light at your work.  Show them what Jesus has to say about economics, home life, medical field.  Or more personally, invite you neighbor over this week, or co-worker, let them experience your home.  Let them see your transformed life.  We fight for the sake of the kingdom of God in this place to preserve culture in the best sense of the word.  We do so by entering into relationships which cost us: time money, energy.

And please notice this is NOT about political domination, but personal holiness – a personal relationship with Jesus Christ – bound together as a community to which He has covenanted Himself.  The world glorifies power and dominion, force and physical strength, status and class.  By contrast, Jesus blesses humility, meekness, mercy, mourning, purity of heart, and even persecution for righteousness’ sake.  Don’t let the world’s idea of influence water down your saltiness.  If you start adding the ingredients the world loves = a dash of the love of money, a pinch of sexual immorality, and so on, you water down your witness.  That salt is good for nothing.  No, it is only when you stay salty that you can add flavor to the lives around you.

Salt not only preserves, but also adds taste.  Without the church this world is tasteless to God.  The people of God stand between the world and the judgment of a Holy God ready to be spewed out.  But the church of Jesus Christ in the world is what gives the world a gospel flavor.  Followers of Jesus have contributed to the overall good of the world.  Whether it be hospitals, education, the environment, the weak, and poor.

But in order to be these things to the world we need to be DIFFERENT!  The church must be counterculture.  And only then can it also be transformational.  As different as salt is to rotting meat.  If we are not different, walking in the ways of the upside-down kingdom, we will be “thrown out and trampled underfoot!”  We are as different from the world as good is from evil.  As Jesus is to the people that crucified Him.  That is the anti-thesis.  We are disciples of Jesus not in rebellion to Him.  The warning to the church is real – the way that you are these things to society is by being different, otherwise you too will be judged.

As the poem goes:

The world is like rotting meat, but you are to be the world’s salt.

The world is like a dark night, but you are to be the world’s light.

Like salt in rotting meat, Christians hinder social decay.

Like light in the prevailing darkness, Christians show society a better way.

Be light!

Let’s quickly turn to the idea of how we are the light of the world.  Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.” Wait, was not Jesus the light of the world (John 8:12)?  Now He who is the light, says you are the light of the world.  Wow, we are the light as He was the light.  We carry on with the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ in the world.  There is a continuation we see from his ministry into the ministry of acts.  The church carries on his ministry.

What made Jesus the light of the world?  It was not His mere words, but also His works: “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me” (John 10:25).  What makes us as Christians the light of the world?  It is our life!

Notice also He says, “You are the light of the world.”  Not be light, but you are light!  This is the point throughout the sermon on the mount.  It’s who we are – that He has called us.  So, the question is not whether you are a light or not, but how you will use the light?  Will you hide it?  Keep it here between these four walls, or let the world see it!   Our outward, observable, public works make who we are and whose we are clear.

As He continues, “A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Not do a people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to the whole house.”

I want to ask an honest question.  Is our light shining in this world?  Is this church like a city on the hill in Bellville?  Do we care about the city?  Our neighbors?  Our co-workers?  I mean really care.  Or are we most worried about our life, our job?  Does our love and care end with the VGK?  When you step out of this building, will your light shine – or is it flickering – is there load shedding happening on Monday to Saturday before you turn it on Sunday?  Just as the power going off shows a power company that’s bankrupt, so a church that doesn’t shine shows a church that’s bankrupt.  It is not plugged into the power source.  May that never be!  May Christ shine in all our words and works.

John 1 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  No amount of darkness can extinguish even the tiniest light, and confirms that if there is even a small weak faith, your light will shine! It is often in the darkest times that we see the church shine the brightest, just like the darker the night the brighter the stars.

May we begin speaking up for what we believe.  Boldly.   And just as it was for Jesus, our works will cause some to revile us and persecute us – but it will be to the glory of the Father.  As He says, “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.”  That is the ultimate purpose, and when we attempt to do it for our own glory, we domesticate Christianity.

The world is like rotting meat, but you are to be the world’s salt.

The world is like a dark night, but you are to be the world’s light.

Like salt in rotting meat, Christians hinder social decay.

Like light in the prevailing darkness, Christians show society a better way.

You see some churches are about survival – maintaining difference.  Making sure that they are set apart.  The salt must stay salty, they say.  It must not become watered down.  It’s important the darkness does not infect us.  So they build big walls, and never have any influence.  But that is merely survival.  Salt and light are not just a different from their environment.  But they have a real and verifiable impact on their environment.

Do you have a vision of a new godliness, a new justice, a new freedom, a new righteousness, a new compassion, a new love for creation then the world?  The world sells spirituality as godliness, justice as temporary, freedom as individualism, hypocrisy as righteousness.

Do you wish to repent of sub-Christian pessimism, that the church will never have any effect, and hyper- optimism that it will be easy?  Will you reaffirm your confidence in the power of God, in the power of prayer, of truth, of example, of group commitment – and of the gospel?

I don’t want merely to articulate glorious truth more accurately, but to manifest it more fully.  I want to live it and to so love God and others for His sake that, whether I provoke persecution or the praise of God, my light, my city on a hill, is clearly seen.

And you?  Join me!  Let us press on to know the Lord (Hos. 6:3) and let our knowledge pour out in love through our mouths and hands and feet and wallets and schedules.

For whether you are being persecuted for Jesus sake, or not – if you are salt and light God is getting glory!

So practically, how do we be salt and light?  Well, I think our Brother John Stott gives four ways we can begin.

  1. Pray.  The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy in I Timothy 2:1, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”  The Christian’s first duty towards society and its leaders is to pray for them.  May we pray without ceasing!
  2. Speak the truth, and do not be ashamed of sharing the gospel.  We should not be ashamed of the gospel because it is true.  It has the power to make a difference in people’s lives, our communities, and our nation.  All God’s truth is powerful.  As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 13:8, “For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.”  Some people say, “share the gospel and if necessary, use words.”  I know what they mean, some people talk a good talk, but don’t walk the walk. But the other side of the coin is also true, some people walk a good walk, but never talk about it, thereby not giving credit where credit is due.  Speaking about faith is vital to be salt and light.  Talk and walk the gospel way.
  3. And then we must also be an example.  While “the truth is powerful when it’s argued, it’s more powerful when it’s exhibited,” Stott writes.  People need more than to just understand the argument. They need to see the benefits of the argument with their own eyes.  Christians are marked people.  The world is watching.  Our hope is that the watching world will see these differences and find them attractive, that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven.
  4. Be united in this vision.
  5. As one sociologist says, “We should not underestimate the significance of the small group of people who have a vision of a just and gentle world.  The quality of a whole culture may be changed when two percent of its people have a new vision.”

Is this not what Jesus did?  He took a small group of only twelve dedicated disciples and within a few years their influence was felt across the entire Roman world.  This is not about just one person, Jesus is addressing a community.  This is an alternative society, a kingdom culture.  This is a collective which draws the attention of the watching world.  And the world will be watching this week.  Who do you belong to, Jesus or the world?  Your deeds will speak for themselves.  May they speak Jesus always.