Sermon On The Mount Devotional Blog 12

Sermon On The Mount Devotional

Salt and Light

Read Matthew 5:13-16 (ESV)

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

Once a year, like clockwork, we get to witness, in those around us or even in our own lives, a strange phenomenon. The New Year’s Resolution. Are you one who, at the beginning of a new year, resolves to change? It can be a good thing but it often is a frustrating one. We start the year with such high and wonderful intentions, but as each week passes our resolve and determination wain, replaced with old and often bad habits. What are some of these common resolutions? A desire to volunteer helping others. To spend less time on social media and more time with people. To eat healthier or to save money. To get better grades. But the most common resolution is often the hardest - to exercise more and to lose weight! Does any of this sound familiar? But where do these resolutions come from? Most often they will flow out of how we have lived this past year (eating too much or not exercising or spending too much money) or from how we want to live in the coming year (healthier or thinner or more financially stable). These desires flow from who we are or who we want to be moving forward. What we do always flows from who we are.

So, who are we? As a believer in Jesus Christ, saved by His atoning work on the cross, we can confidently say that we are now and forever favored of the Father. Remember that we said as we studied the Beatitudes that the phrase “blessed are” means that we are approved of or favored by God. Now because of who we are, favored or approved of by God, we can live contented, joyful lives, no matter what is going on. This is the foundation for the passage that we are going to look at now.  “We pass from a basically abstract definition of a Christian to a functional one.” (The Sermon on the Mount Commentary by Jim Boice pg. 61) Here we have found a picture of who we are in Christ (Beatitudes) and now we move into a picture of how we are to live it out (the rest of the Sermon). The Christian is to be the attributes mentioned in the Beatitudes (mournful of sin, meek, thirsty for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, and disposed to make peace); nevertheless, he is never to be these things in isolation from (the) world. (pg. 62) So, in essence we move from who we are in Christ (Beatitudes), to how we are to live through Christ in the remainder of this Sermon.

So now that we know who we are in Christ, how are we to live? We are to live flavorful lives, as salt of the earth.  Speaking of this element, are there multiple uses for salt? This can be a difficult question for modern readers to answer because maybe we can only think of one use for salt - to flavor food. But more ancient readers they would have answered much differently. Salt was the most common of preservatives (its main function in history). In the past there were no refrigerators or freezers as we have today. Salt rubbed into meat killed microbes that grew, leading to decay and putrification.

When Jesus says that we are to be salt of the earth, He is implying a rottenness to this world, as with decaying meat. Because of sin, everything around us, including our own bodies and lives, is dying or dead. We see this theme in many familiar passages in the Bible. Think about the story of the flood in the book of Genesis. “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually… Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence… And God said to Noah… Make yourself an ark…” (Genesis 6: 5, 11, 13, 14) The world was wicked and evil, rotten and decaying, and in need of cleansing. Moving forward in Genesis, we come to the account of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Here too we see the decay of sin and its consequences as God destroyed them because of their wickedness. 

But in each of these cases there was grace shown, preservation provided, through God to believers in each instance. Mankind was not totally snuffed out, but saved through Noah, in the first account, and Abraham and Lot were spared when the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. Now, move forward to Jesus’ time, a time when the world was still decaying, but when He was present to bring preservation. “The world apart from God is rotten because of sin, but through His power His disciples were able and actually obliged to have a preserving and purifying effect upon it.” (Boice pg. 63)

Jesus tells His followers that we are to be salt. Salt is to be shaken out onto the meat and rubbed onto it to be useful. It cannot just remain in the shaker or set upon the table. So too as believers we are to be active participants in this world. We are not to exist in either of the following two extremes. We are not to have a view of the world that underestimates the wickedness in it, believing it to be better than it is. Neither are we to totally pull away from the world believing that it is too far gone. In the eighteenth century, mankind lived under the Enlightenment, a view that overemphasized man’s ability to change the world. Prior to this, mankind lived through the Monastic period, where some sought to escape the taint of this world by living secluded lives of meditation and isolation in monasteries. One was a utopian view of life and the other an overly escapist mentality and neither was correct. God wants to “rub” us into this rotting and decaying world. Will we allow Him to use us in this way, to provide flavor and substance to this watching world, neither running from it nor overly embracing it apart from Him?

So, Christ in this section calls us to be salt, but He also says that we are to be light. We are to live fluorescently! Verse fourteen says, “You are the light of the world.” Recently we got to experience what scientists call a “super-moon”. This is when a moon is both at its fullest, brightest point and in perigee - at its closest point to the earth in its orbit. A moon is a great reflector of the light of the sun, but it has no source of luminescence in itself. It is a cold, dead, dusty heavenly body, orbiting the earth. It seems to glow and shine as the rays of the sun reflect off of its surface. In the book of John, Jesus says, “I am the Light of the world”. Christ is the source of light and brilliance, and we as believers are to reflect His glory. But here He says that we are to be lights to this world. We are not only to reflect His light, but we, being recreated in His image are to shine with the light that He is placing within us. We are to be lights. As solar panels on a roof soak up the light of the sun, so too we must expose ourselves to Jesus, reading His Word, and spending time in prayer, soaking up His rays. 

So, What Now?

Verses fourteen and fifteen go on to say, “A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 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.” Do we hide our light? Or wish that our light was someplace else? God is the One Who places the light. Will we shine where we are placed? Are we ashamed of the Gospel? Do we know a lot about the Light but refuse to share it? Will we be the salt and light of the Lord today?