We Are the Salt of the Earth
We Are the Salt of the Earth At the Feet of Jesus Matthew 5:13 Pastor/Teacher: Ken Delage Mercy Hill Community Church 2020.04.05 Well, good morning, friends. It is good to be with you this morning, again, as we experience our new normal of gathering together from our living rooms and homes. Open your Bibles to Matthew, chapter 5. We're going to continue to look at our series entitled, “At the Feet of Jesus” as we go through The Sermon on the Mount together. Today, we're going to do one verse, Matthew 5:13. So, read this with me if you would. God's word: “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 know, when I was in the Navy, the guys on the ship, on occasion, would call me “The Mormon”, which was weird because I wasn't. Right? Kind of strange. I'm not exactly sure what they were meaning by that except that—what I took it to mean is—if they thought of Mormons as those who didn't take part in the kind of fun sins that sailors take part in, and so they lumped me into the category of Mormon. I didn't like it. I think I didn't like it, at first, because I didn't like being teased and, at least get it right. You know? But I didn't like it because it also seemed as though I must’ve been making them uncomfortable. They must have felt a kind of constraint around me and that was coming out in this nickname of “Mormon”. I thought I was failing as a Christian to leave that impression on them, as though my purpose, my goal, was to blend in as much as possible. Of course, not to the place of sinning, but to blend in, you know? Make it knock off some of the edges. That's why the quote that I read about this passage, from Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, hit me right between the eyes. Just…oh! Well, I want to read it for you. Here's what it says. It says, “It should not be our ambition to be as much like everybody else as we can, that we happen to be Christian. Rather, to be as different from everybody who is not a Christian as we can possibly be.” [quote repeated] It hit me right between the eyes because, according to Dr. Jones, I've been wrong. My objective has been off. My objective to blend in as much as possible has been 180 degrees out of what he says we should be doing. So is Dr. Jones, right? At the end of the day, is he in agreement with God's word, because I don't really care what Dr. Jones says, but I do care, and I know you care, what is God calling us to in his word? And for that I think we should look at it together. So, let's consider Matthew 5:13 together in three points, and the first one we'll look at is the earth. The verse begins, “You are the salt of the earth.” So, in ancient times, and I'm sure you know this, they would use salt to keep meat from decaying. Right? So, they would rub salt in to fresh meat and that would cure it; that would kill the bacteria on it. And the meat would be preserved. It wouldn't decay or go foul. You know, that salty meat, it makes me think of good ol’ Virginia ham. If you've grown up around here or lived here for a while, chances are really good you've had Virginia ham. In fact, you might be having it next Sunday for Easter dinner. Virginia ham is the salty one, right? And nowadays, you know, we have that because some people like the taste of the salty ham, but that wasn't the reason they did it. They did it to cure the ham so that in the days before refrigeration, you could have them meat last and not spoil. So, we said that we're talking about the earth. What does this say about the earth? When Jesus calls us the “salt of the earth”, it implies that the earth is prone to decay; to moral decay. It's like a piece of meat that's left out in the sun, unprotected, untreated, and it won't take long before it begins to putrefy and spoil and become foul and smell. This is interesting because it's the opposite view to many in our culture today. Many in our culture, who hold to a kind of evolutionary mindset, believe that mankind is evolving physically, biologically, through the process of evolution, and somehow, also evolving morally from one degree of morality to another, improving generation after generation. Others see a correlation between the improvements we make in technology to improvements we make in morality; that both are increasing. With the Bible's perspective on the earth, it is not that the earth is prone to moral advance, but rather than it is prone to moral decay. Decaying and corrupting and rotting and spoiling and, not only prone to moral decay, but unable to stop itself. What piece of meat left in the sun can stop itself from rotting? It takes an agent acting upon that meat to keep it from decay, and Jesus calls that, salt. So, our world needs salt. So number one, the earth. Number two, the Christian. The Christian. Again, you are the salt of the earth, Jesus says. Jesus begins not by calling us to something, but by calling us something; by telling us what we are, in that, you should be the salt of the earth. He says you are the salt of the earth. You, Christian. You, disciple. You, who follow after me. You are the salt of the earth. You are the salt of the earth because the Holy Spirit dwells within you; because you have been regenerated. You have been given new life, and now you have a new heart. Yes, you still have the old man at war with the new man, but fundamentally, there is a new man a new heart that God has given to you. You're a new creation. And so, on the day that you were brought from death to life, God made you, salt, dear friend. So. before you go thinking about whether you're being good salt or not, let us let us consider the reality that our maker declares that this is what we are, regardless of our week or month, that we are salt. He's made us to be this. Okay, now salt. How does salt work? How do you get it to do its job, you know? You put it on the meat, right? You put it in the presence of decay and then you turn on the switch…no…you plug in the battery…no. There's nothing else you have to do, right? The only thing it takes for salt to oppose decay is to put it in the presence of decay, and then salt does its thing. Every time it's in the presence of decay. This means, believers, that we should be in contact with the decaying world around us. We should be rubbing elbows with sinful people, with the broken world. And it means that, as we do that, we should have a preservative, moral influence on those around us, just by being in the presence of decay. Have you ever noticed a situation, something like this, where there's a group of people standing around, you know, they're talking with each other. Maybe there's some coarse joking, some people are swearing to each other, whatever, lewd discussion whatever it is, and then somebody else walks up who's a godly person, and that conversation just sort of dies. It just stops. Or maybe a group of school-aged people are cheating on a test, until somebody with a righteous reputation takes their seat in the midst of that group, and the cheating just kind of evaporates, just sort of stops in the middle. Friends, the mere presence of salt is meant to stop decay and will stop decay. This is the whole point of Jesus’ picture in His word, that we are the salt of the earth. The world is decaying and we are called to stop, or at least slow down and reduce, that decay by our presence here. Now, salt in a wound might stop infection from growing in that wound, it might kill bacteria in that wound, but salt in a wound has a kind of reputation. Doesn't it? Like, we talk about that. Like, “Salt in a wound”, you know? It's got a reputation for pain. People don't like to get salt in a wound. Salt has a bite to it, a tang to it. It stops decay, but its presence isn't always welcome and isn't always appreciated. I don't think there's a mistake here when Jesus goes from verses 10-12 talking about persecution, and verse 13 calls us to be salt, because there's going to be a connection between these things. The world will not always appreciate the salty influence of the believer the way that it reveals fallen morality by exhibiting Christ's morality, christlikeness in the midst of a fallen and putrefying world. Here’s the thing: we’re called to be salt, not sugar. Jesus didn't say, “You are the sugar of the earth.” You know, both salt and sugar can improve the flavor of something. This is not just about flavor, though. It is about being a preservative. Yet, many a believer, and I would include myself in this, at times, has a kind of mismatch of goal, and thinks that were called to be the sugar of the earth, to make life sweet for all those around us, to just improve the taste. You know, we'll talk about God, but it'll be all about the mercy of God, the forgiveness of God, the love of God, God's plans to prosper you, all of those all of those true things about God, but somehow words like righteousness and holiness and justice get left out of their vocabulary. And then, while we might be willing to let people know we're a Christian, we tamp down our own morality as though they shouldn't see righteousness or be influenced by godliness or see a picture of christlikeness or holiness. Friend, if your friends don't see a glimpse of the holiness of God in you, where will they see it? The world needs salt. And that brings us to number three. So, number one was the earth. Number two, the Christian. Number three, the call. I’m going to read the verse again. Jesus says, “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.” The call of the passage is to be salty. Don't lose your flavor. You are salt. So, be salty. You are Christians. So, live in such a way that you look like Jesus. The relationship you have with him is obvious to those around you. It means that the Beatitudes—we just got done with the Beatitudes—that these are alive in you all the time; not just in your prayer closet, not just on Sunday mornings, but that, at work, it's obvious that you are someone who hungers and thirsts for righteousness. You're pure of heart. That you're poor in spirit before your God. We're called to live out the Beatitudes, out loud, in the midst of a decaying culture. And Jesus gives us a warning here, and it is a loud warning. He says that salt which loses its flavor is good for nothing and will be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. That's a double warning; the first is a picture of judgment. It's a picture of those who thought they were salt. They didn't act like salt, and by they're not acting like salt, it was revealed that they were not, in fact, salt. There is no such thing as saltless salt. If there's one thing about salt, that's true about it, it is that it is salty, right? If it ain't salty, it ain't salt, and it's good for nothing. Counterfeit salt, thrown out; revealed to not be salt. Revealed to not be saved. There's are fearful words, and they should be in the sense of evaluating ourselves. But Jesus’ is point here is not so much to be concerned for his disciples. The warning here is he is concerned for the world. He is concerned for the earth. It is the earth which needs the salt, right? The point of the parable, the point of the picture He's writing is not about the salt. It's about the earth which needs the salt. So, go be that. Go be salty among them. When Jesus says that the salt is no longer good for anything, it means that the world, the earth, will plummet into decay apart from God's people acting as preservative agents throughout it. It has no other hope. Jesus knew he was leaving, and he left this role to his people to preserve the earth. And that brings us back to the question we asked at the beginning: was Dr. Jones, right? He said, “It should not be our ambition to be as much like everybody else as we can, that we happen to be Christian. But rather, to be as different from everybody who's not a Christian as we can possibly be.” Friends, he is exactly right. If there is one thing true about salt, it is that it is different from everything else around. It is distinct. It is set apart. That is what the word “sanctified” means. It means set apart. Holiness means set apart, morally distinct, and different. Friends, you are called to be distinct. From those around you in your workplace, in your extended family, in your group of friends on the weekend, in the gathering of neighbors in the front driveway. Now, we aren’t called to be obnoxious about it. We aren't called to be self-righteous about it, looking down. We know. Friend, don't forget that anything God has worked in us, God has worked in us. It is by his grace that we would exhibit anything of christlikeness to the world around us, so we're not called to be self-righteous. We're not called to be hypocritical; one thing in public and another thing in private. We may get accused of all those things. May they not be true of us, but here's what needs to be true, that we're living out the character of Jesus wherever we go. That's what it means to be salty. Quite simply, quietly living out our walk with God in every context he puts us in. Perhaps it will, at times, lead to persecution. God be with us, and to God be the glory. At times, it will lead someone to salvation as they see a glimpse of the holiness of God—coupled, hopefully—with the love of God at the same time. And if that happens, then to God be the glory. And at other times—and this is the point of Jesus’ picture—it will simply be used to slow down the moral decay around us. It will tamp it down like a fire that would, otherwise, rage out of control and consume all in its path. The believer is called to tamp it down by our own life, by our own living, by our own example. When that happens, then to God be the glory. Friends, let's not forget, it is uncomfortable being salt, but let's not forget that the world needs it. Friends, when sin is slowed, that is good for people. Sin is destructive. Kids get destroyed. The weak get harmed. Families get shattered. Lives get ruined. Cultures collapse. Humans die when sin flourishes, but humans flourish when sin dies. So, we're called to aid human flourishing, as it was meant to be, by stamping out through our own influence, the decay around us. Friends, be salt for the sake of your neighbors. Be salt for the sake of your co-workers. Be salt for the sake of your family. I think it's ironic that we're talking about this, this morning when we're all stuck in our homes. You're saying, “Ken, I don't go to work anymore. I don't think I'm going to see my extended family all summer because all those vacations are up in the air or canceled.” You know, God has gathered us into our own little, like, the salt shakers of our home, and positioned us around right now. We're gathered into the salt shaker. You know, I wonder if, amongst many, I wonder if one of the purposes of gone in this, in gathering us for a time being, in setting us aside for the time being, is to give us a moment to consider; how salty are we being? In the different context he has had us, are we living as salt should live, or are we tempted to lose our flavor? When God ends this time and pours us back out into the world, it's going to happen someday. I know it feels like forever; might be weeks, maybe months, but at some point, the pandemic will be over and we’ll be shaken back out into the world; when that happens, are you going to taste like Christ to those around you? Will there be a salty influence in your life, refreshed and renewed, in each context that God puts you. I encourage each of us to consider that before the Lord, and as we consider it to not forget the good news is, friend, you don't have to make yourself salty. The salt with which we live results from the saltiness of Jesus Christ within us. Friends, He is the salt of the earth, right? He is the salt of the earth. We are the salt of the earth because He dwells within us, so let us look to him to become what He wants us to be, to walk out what He's made us to be. And as we talk about this, let's not let's not miss the opportunity to say, “Thank you, Lord, for forgiving us. Thank you, Lord, for coming as salt into our decaying lives.” Oh, I needed preserving. I needed cleansing, an antiseptic of the soul, and thanks be to God that He sent Christ into the world for us to stop the moral decay in its tracks, and has set us on a new road, where now we've gone from those who are decaying, to even called “salt” for the sake of those around us. To God be praised for such a thing as that. You know, friend, I bet you've been praying through this pandemic, that God would do many good things through it. I bet you’ve been praying that God would save people that don't know Him, that he would take the blinders off, that people would come to know Jesus through that. May God do many great things through this time. But may one of those things be that when He sees fit to shake us back out into the world, that we would be salty believers, doing the work that salt is meant to do in every context where he puts us. May we do so, perhaps, that some would be saved. May we do so, perhaps, so that some moral decay would be slowed And may we do so regardless of the human impact, so that God, Himself, may be glorified through us; through his church. Amen. Let's pray. Father, thank you for sending Jesus. When you saw the world decaying, judgment would have been a righteous response. Jesus was a righteous and merciful response. Jesus, thank you for coming as the salt of the earth, for being hated as salt. Even killed as salt. But doing so for us, that we would be preserved, stopped from are spoiling. Oh, help us following you. Fill us afresh with your Spirit, we pray, that we would exhibit this Christ-like quality everywhere we go. Would you receive the glory? Would you receive the honor? Would you receive the praise for this? We ask in Jesus name. Amen. Friends, I miss you. Every week I look forward to when we can do this again together, face-to-face, back in our building. God bless you this morning.