Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 9, 2014.
Open your Bibles to Matthew 5:13-16. We are going to get right to work today, so let us read our passage, pray and then pursue God by studying His Word.
Yet, to this average group of people Jesus proclaims this over-the-top statement and tells them that they are salt of the earth and light of the world. And the use of “You” in this passage is not passive, it is emphatic, meaning that Jesus is saying that you, and you alone, are salt and light. The disciple that Jesus just got done describing in the beatitudes of verse 2-12 is the one who is salt and light. No one else.
You almost wonder if at that moment, the people looked around with a confused look on their face and said, “Who us?” For this statement seems somewhat ridiculous, when thinking about the crowd who was listening. How can stinky fisherman, tax-collectors, and sinners be salt of the earth and light of the world? Yet Jesus, who is truth incarnate, looks at them in the eyes and tells flat out who they truly are.
These words that Jesus spoke 2000 were not only for the disciples on the side of the mountain, but they are for all Christians. Jesus might as well be standing on this stage and looking at each one of you in the eyes, with perfect knowledge of all your past, and say these exact words, “You, Cornerstone, are salt of the earth and light of the world.” And when Jesus proclaims truth to us, we must not doubt His words. We must embrace them. We must swallow them. Jesus, in this passage is not just saying words to pass the time, he is speaking into our lives so as to wake up our soul to the reality of who we are in Christ. So what does Jesus mean when he says that His disciples are salt and light?
First, let us start with salt. What is salt? To begin, salt is not a neutral compound. Salt is a distinct, powerful and extremely useful substance on this planet. Ever since the beginning of civilization, people have used salt to improve life in one way or the other. The two main purposes of salt in the times of Jesus were food preservation and food flavoring. In those days, they did not have freezers or refrigerators for their meat. If an animal was killed, it was salted, packed in salt. Why? So as to stop the decay of the meat. Without salt, the meat would begin to break down, decompose, smell, eventually becoming putrid and rotten, repulsive to those who pass by. Salt was used to slow down the decay. Salt was rubbed into the meat so that it would not decompose as quickly.
Salt also provides flavor. This does not need a lot of explanation, because all of us can relate to this. In fact, many of you today will eat the food for our pot-luck and instantly your taste buds will cry out for salt. In fact, when you do eat today, attempt to imagine these foods without salt. If you were eating saltless food, would you savor every bite, or would you merely be going through the motions?
Next, let us dwell upon light. What is light? Light is the way by which we see. Without light, there is darkness. Without light, I cannot see the nose in the front of my face. Without light, we stub our toes and startle when we hear a sound. I am sure many of you have experienced extreme darkness before, perhaps in a cave, or being shut in a closet when you were a child, with absolutely no light reaching your eyes. It is an eerie and unsettling feeling; however, all that darkness is, is the absence of something, namely light.
With these two descriptions of who a Christian is, salt and light, we catch a glimpse of how God sees the world. When God peers down and looks upon humanity, he does not see an explosion of life and light. He sees decay and darkness. God sees death and decomposition and rottenness. He sees blindness, senselessness, a people who lack vision, understanding, and knowledge. This is a true today and it was 2000 years ago.
The world loves to proclaim how we in this age are so wise and smart, but let us be hones, we are just as lost as they were 2000 years ago. Despite all the information we have, despite our self-proclaimed enlightenment, and civility, we still have wars. We still have broken hearts. We still have starving children. We still have domestic violence. We still have drug and alcohol addiction. We still have anxiety, fear, anger, confusion. None of the knowledge that we have obtained answers the deeper questions and problems of life. The world is just as broken today as it was during the time of Jesus.
What is amazing is that in the midst of this decay and darkness, Jesus tells his His followers, that they, and they alone, provide the answers to these two problems. I love how David Platt puts it in his book radical. In fact, he names an entire chapter this. “There is no plan B.” The Church, meaning those who have faith in Christ, are the only option on the table. God has set up one way by which He rolls out his purposes for this dark and decaying world, and this plan is you and me and all of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Think about this for a moment. How often have you as a Christian felt inferior in this world? How many times have you cowered and shrunk back from having a crucial conversation with a co-worker, family member, friend of neighbor?
Several weeks ago we read, “Blessed are the meek” and we saw that meekness does not mean weakness. Instead meekness is like a tamed animal. Picture a lion that you can pet. Meekness is power under control.
The sad fact is that Christians don’t see themselves as approachable lions. Instead we have a tendency to see ourselves as beaten dogs, lurking in the shadows, flinching at every sudden movement or noise. This doesn’t make sense. This is entirely inconsistent with who God tells us we are in Christ. We are not second-handers. We are not subpar. We ARE salt and light. We are not becoming salt, we are not becoming light. It is a fact. We are plan A. We have in our possession the cure to the cancer.
So what does it mean to be salt and light? First, salt and light does not come naturally. We are not born salty and glowing. In fact, by nature, we are still born into darkness. From birth until God intervenes into our life, we are spiritually dead, destined for physical and eternal death, and utterly and absolutely walking in darkness. It is only when we have believed in our heart that Jesus is the Messiah that we become this new creation. For it is He who is the cause and the source of our transformation. If you have not been born again by the spirit of God, then you are not salty and you do not have light.
So if we are to understand what it means for us to be salt and light, we need to understand what it means that Jesus is salt and light. Turn with me to John 1:4-13.
So how does this text help? What does it tell us about Jesus being salt? Look at the main purpose of Jesus coming into this world. Jesus came into the world to shine light and to give life.
Now think about this. What is the main problem in this world? Our main problem is sin. Why? First, because sin has caused us to have darkened minds.
Jesus' main purpose in coming into this world is to reverse the curse that was brought on through Adam and Eve's rebellion. He comes to shine light into our hearts and to stop the decay of our lives. He is the incarnate salt and light of God. Meaning that God has come in the flesh and his presence reveals to us our sinfulness and need for a savior and and his righteousness. His presence in the flesh is the living revelation of how God was going to save humanity. Jesus is the mystery revealed, and when the light of Jesus shines into our lives, we have only one response, to accept his gift of grace, and when we do this the decay of our lives is stopped, for we are given eternal life.
So how does that translate to us, the Church? If this is how Jesus is salt and light, how are we, the Body of Christ, salt and light? Our being salt and light is similar, but yet different, for we do not preserve and illumine as Christ did, but instead we point to the one who does.
First, we are to live as if we have been salted by Christ. When Jesus Christ, comes into our lives and delivers us from death, everything changes. We go from children of wrath to children of God. God tells us that we, in fact, become new creatures, another way to think of this is that we become salty. When we are living in this bland world we add a flavor that is distinct. We love. We forgive. We have peace. We have discernment. These things are not present in those who are passing away, only those who have been salted by Christ. It is us, and us alone who are salt.
When people come in contact with Christians we have an effect. Sometimes good and sometimes bad. We are either like salt in their wound, or they crave more. Either we repulse them or they are drawn to what makes us different. For those who are drawn to us, what is really happening is that they are drawn to Christ in us. And this is where light comes in.
The primary way we are light is through the proclamation of the Gospel. For it is the gospel that is the light that shines in the hearts of men.
Jesus makes this very clear, that we have a job to do on earth. We are not so sit around in our holy huddle and merely have potlucks, not that there is anything bad about potlucks. However, our main task is to shine. We are not to hide out. We are to be in the world. We are to be like grains of salt being worked into the meat. We are to be a beacon of light for all of Cascade and the surrounding areas. This is our mission.
So let us not be disobedient. Let us be who God saved us to be. Let us chose today to be salt and light starting today.