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Salt and Light

Matthew: Discipleship  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  36:29
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Intro

Last week we looked briefly at the Beatitudes and learnt what we referred to as the soundtrack of our lives. The rhythms and lyrics to the song our lives sing are wrapped up in those verses. The big takeaway from hearing those Beatitudes is that we hear that we have been called by God to be called Blessed and with this privilege comes the responsibility that our lives should be different. The beatitudes finished by saying that we should be different and that by being different, living for Jesus would be paradoxical to the rest of the world. When the world aspires to pride, Christians look to humility in repentance. When the world looks to win at any cost, we look to be merciful. Each step of the beatitudes leads us to live a life different to those around us. And the beatitudes conclude with a note that we will live differently and be persecuted for it. We will encounter suffering for Jesus' name. And on that note the Sermon on the mount continues through Matthew 5.13-16 we hear again from Jesus that our lives do need to be radically different to those around us. We don't just live lives differently from others, we have a crucial role to play in the world.
This morning it would be ideal if you had Matthew 5 open in front of you. If you don't have a Bible, the relevant words should appear on the screen. We are going to look at the metaphors that Jesus present and consider how it is that Jesus calls us to be the Salt and the Light of the World. The two roles Jesus calls us to is as preservers and as beacons of hope.

Salt of the Earth - Preservers

Mt 5.13
Matthew 5:13 NIV
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
Jesus begins by saying that you are the salt of the earth.
He says "You" as if pointing at someone and here this links back to how the sermon started last week. He is addressing the disciples that have been called up on the mount, away from the crowd, and he is teaching them what it means to be a disciple. "You" refers to people like us who have been called to live lives for Jesus and Mt 5-7 is Jesus great teaching on righteousness.
So naturally this metaphor should have something to do with living righteous lives for Jesus.
So, You are the Salt of the Earth. What does that mean?
Some scholars are willing to list up to 11 different possibilities of what this could mean and the brevity of the metaphor gives little away.
The most convincing meaning behind this I have found suggest that the salt was used as a preservative.
What are preservatives? Well, they keep things fresh and edible. It's what Maccas pump their food full of, as as a result of moving this week, its also what I am full of now! They preserve the life of something so it can be useful for longer. Preservatives prevent corruption. They prevent bad stuff from getting into foods and other things and making them go off, or mouldy.
So we are to be the salt of the earth. We are to be preservers in the world. As followers of Jesus we have a crucial role to play in being that preserving element for the world. And by world, this does not just mean the soil - but people as well! This is not the first time Jesus has used metaphors to refer to people like this. Consider the crucial example of Jesus calling his first disciples: Mt 4.18-20
Matthew 4:18–20 NIV
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
Here, instead of fishing for fish, the disciples are told to fish for people. Likewise, as the salt of the earth we have been called to be that one element that is useful for preserving the lives of people. Not simply as a doctor would preserve life, but as those who have their minds and hearts fixed beyond this world. Think back to last week and the way the first and the last beatitude are framed both end like this: Mt 5.3
Matthew 5:3 NIV
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The kingdom of heaven is what we are preserving people for. This is what we are being used to keep people alive for. As the salt of the earth we are being called to be that element that prevents souls from decay. Not food - souls. And how are we to 'preserve' people, well, as the beatitudes concluded last week we are in the same line as the prophets. This does not mean we are prophets, but we share a similar duty of preserving the proclamation of God's word. We are to preserve the world by preserving the prophetic tradition of proclaiming God's word.
So if salt loses it's saltiness, what does that mean.
Once again, we need to do some digging here. The poetry of a metaphor takes a meaning of a word and rephrases it for its poetic function. The same word used for loses it's saltiness reappears later in the gospel, but you would hardly know it. Later, in Matthew 25.1-13 Jesus is once again in a larger block of speech of sorts and he tells the parable of the ten virgins. Let's pop over to Matthew 25 (go to the bottom of page 1511 in your bibles). We came here briefly last week when we considered how the acts of mercy described in the beatitudes are shaped by Jesus. Now at the start of Matthew 25, we read this. Mt 25.1-13
Matthew 25:1–13 NIV
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ “ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
The same word for 'loses it's saltiness' is used again here in verse 2 when it mentions the word 'foolish'. The original word is where sounds a lot like our modern word 'moron'. Here Jesus says that you are a moron if you do not prepare for the coming of the kingdom of heaven. And because they are morons, when the day comes and Jesus returns to call us home, they will here Mt 25.12
Matthew 25:12 NIV
“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
So if we lost our saltiness, we would be morons - and this has dire consequences. Jumping back to Matthew 5.13
Matthew 5:13 NIV
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
If we lose our saltiness, if we stop looking forward to the coming of the kingdom of heaven, we might as well be tossed to the streets. We would be, for all intensive purposes, useless. Good for nothing.
Why? Because we have been commissioned to be preserves of life on earth. We carry with us the words of eternal life, and through the Holy Spirit, these words have the power to change hearts towards God. To give eternal life.
If we become morons and lose saltiness, we have given up on that role. We have allowed ourselves to become corrupted. We have turned to from being sustainers of life, to being useless. Those who now march to their own graves because they do not know Jesus trample us underfoot.
This metaphor describes us as having a crucial role to play in the world those who would make a long lasting difference. As we dig deeper into the passage we have seen that if we stoped living the life we have been called to we would be useless. We would not preserve life, but submit to the decay of it. This salt metaphor it is dynamic. It refers to an active life where, we as those who are prepared for the kingdom of heaven are being used to preserve the lives of those on earth. How, by the very words of God. If we are not salty, we will rot. Our very cores will decay and when the rot sets in, the effect is immediate. Look at how direct Jesus is here - we will be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
Let us spend our lives keeping ourselves salty, not being morons. Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus who is our certain hope for life after death and the forgiveness of sins. Let us be reminded of the coming kingdom of heaven, of which we are citizens and not throw away our saltiness by embracing the corruption of sin. Let us use this saltiness. Salt is a tasty preservative and that is how our lives should be - tasty.
But this tasty doesn't necessarily mean 'likeable'. We are not to just adopt whatever is new or trendy or invest in worldly treasures. Such morons are referred to later in the Sermon on the mount in Mt 6 as those fools who only invest in worldly treasures. We need to buck the trend and use our conversations we have with people with actual intent to keep them alive.
This is the negative example of failing to be a difference maker in the world for Jesus. Let's end on a positive note.

The Light of the World - Beacons of Hope

Mt 5.14-16
Matthew 5:14–16 NIV
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
We are the light of the world.
The meaning of this one is a little more apparent as light is used as a metaphor all over the Bible. It was used in Mt 4.14-16 as Matthew quotes from the prophet Isaiah and it describes Jesus and the role he fulfils.
Matthew 4:14–16 NIV
to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
Isaiah prophesied this when the nation was in exile and he was pointing followers of God to the one true hope that they have. But in doing so he prophesied to all that were around him. When Isaiah speaks of the great light dawning on the land he adds to this image that the prophets spoke of regarding the renewed city of Jerusalem. One commentator phrases it like this:
This last-days Zion would be the light of the World as salvation flowed from Israel to the nations. Jesus now declared his audience to be this light, reinforcing the connection with the prophetic picture of the last days by alluding to the 'city set on a hill'...Since this is what Israel was, Jesus called his audience to let their light shine; that is, it was time to be what Israel should have always been—the light to the world!
It is important to note that Matthew includes a bit of a combination of metaphors to make this point. Although the dominant metaphor is the lamp in a house, Matthew sneaks in Mt 5.14
Matthew 5:14 NIV
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.
A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. As we are all described by Matthew as lamps, we are all to be the light to the world. Jesus has come as the true light in the world and as we are now joined to him in Christ, we are to each be the light to the world. And together we form this new community, this new Zion. We are being shaped for the world to come. So collectively we are to be the light to the world.
It's like those party sparklers. You know the long sticks and you light one end and they sparkle away. Well, if you have ever been a 14 year old boy in south west Sydney like myself, just one sparkler only just wets the appetite for more. Every young boy, and perhaps grown men as well, look at that packet and think, I wonder...If I just hold a bunch of them together, what is going to happen....Well, I had the burn marks to prove it. Whoosh they go! A massive burning hot light. And here, that is our description, we are to be beacons of light to the world. Instead of brining actual heat. we are to bring the light of salvation to a world living in the shadow of death. We are preserves of world by the word and we are to beacons of hope to the world that is in desperate need of hope.
So collectively we are to be lights of the world. We do this by living as the beatitudes described, especially as week strive for righteousness. In doing so we are doing good deeds in the world. We are practically serving others to show them the love of Christ. We are not out there to show how loving we are. Look at the reason why we serve there in Mt 5.16.
Matthew 5:16 NIV
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
So that people would see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven. We are not doing good deeds so that others might copy us, but so that they see why we are different. We are different because we know what good is. We know who good is.
Our lives are not shaped by a performance of publicly visible religious works, but a like of goodness lived in the service of our Heavenly Father. So with this as our purpose the challenge now comes to figure out how we are to do this. How are we meant to be preservers of life and beacons of hope?
Individually and as a collective. This week we are not ending with any specific application. The text speaks for itself on the sorts of lives we are to lead. But we should be challenged by this text. Individually and as a collective.
Individually we need to honestly look at our affections for Christ. Because as the context of this passage describes, we are being directed to be persecuted for the Glory of God. You need to really love someone to lay down their lives for them. Christ loved us with such love and we are called to be in love with Christ as well. In the face of persecution, our saltiness will be tested. The question will be asked in the face of death- do you love your Lord and Saviour. And the only way we can rediscover our love for Christ is reading God's word each and every day and seeing through every page of Scripture what God has done for us in Christ. And if you need help with that - on how to read the Bible well or the disciple of reading, ask us.
This leads us to thinking collectively. How are we all to be this light to the world? This is the challenge to us today. We are at an exciting time for our church. If every person who said that they would come to church each week actually came, we would have 222 people plus visitors coming through each Sunday to hear God's word and worship our Heavenly Father. We have more attending our church now than any other time in recent history. We have a staff team! We are growing in maturity and number and the challenge to us is how are we to do this together. As we attempt to live these dynamic lives as salt and light in the world, Tim and I would love for you to be suggesting to us what sort of things you would like on. We have the capability to run more studies, to dig deeper into the word together, to worship God together in song, to pray together. How are we to be doing good works in Guildford to the glory of God. Come tell us . Use the contact cards at the back of church. Email us. Call us. We can't promise we will do everything, but everything will be considered as we try and press forward in Guildford so that under God we would see Guildford transformed from the Bad Lands into the Promised Land one person at a time. Will you pray with me?
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