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Salt and Light for the World - February 5, 2017

The Savior's Sermon  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  17:40
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God has given purpose to your life. Live as salt and light to this world. Stem the moral decay of society and shine the light of Christ on those living in darkness without him!

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Matthew 5:13-16 Epiphany 5

Salt and Light for the World

13 “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.14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 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. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Dear friends in Christ:

With all our busyness these days, we should really set aside some time to think about the big questions of life. Not questions like, “What’s for dinner?” or “What should I wear today?” And not even, ‘Who will win the Super Bowl tonight?” No, I’m talking about the big questions of life, questions like: “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” Jesus gives us an answer to those questions in these verses from his Sermon on the Mount when he says that we are salt and light for the world.

I. We live in a dark world of moral decay

One of the best pieces of advice given to any public speaker is that he should know his audience. When the speaker prepares his message and delivers it, he should know if he is talking to little children or to teenagers, to parents or to grandparents, or to an audience made up of millennials or an audience full of baby boomers. If the speaker does not recognize the make-up of his audience, he runs the risk of speaking a lot of words that really don’t apply to the people in front of him.

Jesus knew his audience when he preached his Sermon on the Mount. He was speaking to his followers, to Christians. His sermon was not a sermon on how to be saved. That Jesus taught at other times when he called people to trust him as their Savior. His Sermon on the Mount, rather, was a sermon on how his followers are to live in a morally corrupt and dark decaying world.

Jesus’ sermon applies to us today because we are his followers. By God’s grace, the Holy Spirit has called us to faith in Jesus as our Savior. We believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is our Lord. We believe that Jesus Christ has redeemed us, lost and condemned creatures, that he has purchased and won us from all sin, from death and from the power of the devil. We believe that Jesus Christ has freed us from all sin for life with him under his gracious rule, right now and into eternity. But until he takes us into the glory of heaven, we live here, in a morally corrupt and dark decaying world.

Many don’t see the world in that way. Many claim that mankind is constantly evolving for the better. In some respects, we can see progress. We can see, for example, advancement in areas of technology and science. But what about the areas of morality and spiritual matters?

Consider the attitudes and actions of our own society over the last several decades. A century ago the majority of people in our land would have argued that abortion is murder. But 44 years ago last month, the United States Supreme Court decided to legalize abortion. At the time, many abortion advocates argued that what is conceived in a woman’s body is simply a piece of flesh, like an appendix, and not really a human being with any right to life. But today many abortion advocates freely admit that what is conceived in a woman’s body is a human being. Yet they still insist that the mother has the right to end that child’s life.

Another example of our society’s moral decay is the indifference to the institution of marriage. In years past our society had a much higher regard for God’s gift of marriage. That is not to say that marriages were perfect or that there were no problems in marriage. But many accepted marriage as God’s institution and gift by which he blesses not only those who are married, but all of society. As the years have passed, however, more and more people have disregarded marriage in favor of cohabitation. They ignore God’s loving warnings about their sin and live as husband and wife without actually being husband and wife. Divorce is accepted as something normal and good. Now the biblical teaching of marriage is so far removed from the minds of many that they imagine God accepts their immorality and blesses their own definitions of marriage.

We are living in a dark world of moral decay. The problems that we encounter because of our own sinfulness and the sinfulness of others lead us to cry out, “How long, O Lord?” We find ourselves praying the same prayer as that of the apostle John: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). We long for the day when Jesus will take us out of this vale of tears to himself in heaven.

II. Christ has given purpose to our lives

Have you ever wondered why Jesus hasn’t done that already? Why didn’t Jesus just send his angels to take you into glory immediately after you were baptized, immediately after you came to trust in Jesus as your Savior? Wouldn’t that have been so much easier? Then you would not have to struggle with your own sinful nature. You would not have had to be dealing with the corruption and darkness of this world. You would have enjoyed heaven’s glory immediately! But it hasn’t happened that way. Your Lord Jesus did not take you to heaven immediately after you came to faith. Instead, in his loving wisdom he has given you a certain amount of time in this world. And he has given you a purpose for your life in this world. Jesus talks about that purpose in these verses.

Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth.” In Jesus’ day people used salt in various ways. They used salt as a seasoning, like we do today. They also used salt in a medicinal way. They would bathe in salt and rub their newborn babies with it. They also used salt as a preservative. Since there were no freezers or refrigerators, salt was used to counteract the decay of their food. Just as salt hinders decay and preserves food, so Christians counteract the corruption of an ungodly world and stem the moral decay of mankind.

Jesus also says, “You are the light of the world.” It’s the nature of light to shine. Light dispels darkness and drives it away. During the season of Epiphany, we have talked about how Jesus is the Light of the World. Now Jesus says that we, his followers, are the light of the world. God has called us out of spiritual darkness into his wonderful light. The Holy Spirit has given us the light of faith and new life in Jesus. Now, plugged into Jesus, we shine with his light so that people who are still in the dark can see Jesus as their Savior and be drawn to him.

How exactly do we do that? How are we the light of the world? And how are we the salt of the earth? First, by the way we conduct ourselves. Even if our neighbors are joining in the sinful practices of the world, we strive not to fall into that same trap. By the strength of God’s Gospel promises and the direction he gives us in his Word, we aim to imitate Christ and his conduct so that others might see Christ in us. As the apostle Peter said, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12).

Another way in which we are the salt of the earth and light for the world is when we speak up and label the wickedness we see in our world as the sin it really is. When family members, or friends, or neighbors are not living in line with God’s will, we want to look for opportunities to speak the truth in love. We want to warn them that their actions are not in line with their confession as Christians. What we tell them might sting like salt in a wound. And they won’t always appreciate what we say. But we still need to tell them because it is only when people recognize their sin as an offense to God that they will also see their need for a Savior. Then we can point them to their Savior, to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Salt and light for the world. This is who we are. This is why we are here. This is what God has made us in Christ. Notice, however, that Jesus also has a warning for us in these verses. He says, “13 "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 by men.14 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.”

Do you understand his point? Salt that loses its saltiness is good for nothing. A lamp that is lit but then covered is worthless. It doesn’t do what it was made to do. In the same way, a Christian who hides his Christianity or sets it aside in favor of the sins of society is not doing what he was made to do. He’s no longer the godly influence for his family members, friends, neighbors, or anyone else in society.

In past years when I have dropped off my kids at a friend’s house, or at the mall, or at some other public place, I have reminded them to behave. At other times I have said, “Remember who you are.” That’s what Jesus is telling us here. Christians, remember who you are. You are the salt of the earth. So season the society in which you live with a godly life. You are the light of the world. So let your light shine that others may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Amen.

Pastor Karl M Schultz

Epiphany 5

February 5, 2017

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