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Matthew 5:13-16 | "Let Your Light Shine"

[Sermon on the Mount] Living the New Life!  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  35:07
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Sunday, January 24, 2021. Matthew 5:13-16 | "Let Your Light Shine Before People." Whatever Jesus does personally in us, He does publicly through us. By the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, our new identity in Jesus makes us salt and light for people on earth, to the glory of God the Father!

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I. Reading of Scripture

Matthew 5:13 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.
Matthew 5:14 ESV
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Matthew 5:15 ESV
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.
Matthew 5:16 ESV
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.
This is God’s Word, Amen.
Pray

II. Introduction

A. Introduction to Theme

I would imagine that an important moment in your spiritual story involves you walking down the aisle in a church sanctuary, at the conclusion of a sermon or service of worship, to make public your profession of faith and obedience to the Lord.
This has been called an “altar call,” or “invitation time.”
Often, it is accompanied by the singing of “I Surrender All” or “Just As I Am” and the voice of the minister saying: “We’ll sing one more verse, one more verse, would you come, would you come?”
Have you ever made a public profession of faith like that?
Do you remember walking down a church aisle to publicly respond to God?
To acknowledge what God has already done in making you a member of His body, the Church.
To make it known that by faith in Jesus, you have been born again, to walk in newness of life.
To make public your intention to obey Jesus through the waters of baptism.
To confess and repent of sin before God and others who have been wronged?
How did walking forward make you feel?
Were you terrified:
Wishing you hadn’t picked a seat in the back of the sanctuary? That small aisle of 100 feet now feels like 100 miles!
Did you walk forward, or did you come with a nervous run?
Whether or not you have had such an experience,
Can you remember watching someone else walking down a church aisle and making public their faith and obedience to the Lord?
How did that make you feel?
Were you overcome with joy because it was someone you had been praying for and now you see with your eyes the fruit of your prayer?
Were you inspired to follow Jesus with more boldness because of their public profession?
Or, even better, were you moved to follow after them and obey Jesus in the same way because their faith was made public?
I remember as a child, wondering why the pastor would ask people to stand up and walk forward to obey Jesus in front of everyone.
Especially when you consider that one of the top fears people report is a fear of public speaking!
Wouldn’t it be safer, to give people a less-public way to respond to Jesus? Would we have more people join the church that way? Would we have more professions of faith that way?
And the pastor would explain it this way —
“if you will not stand up, and walk forward publicly in front of all these people, in a church, your faith family, a people who are prayer warriors, who celebrate your decision, who are cheering you on and supporting you —
HOW will you stand up and walk with Jesus and speak about Him publicly, in a world that either does not know Jesus, or hates Him?
It’s a worthwhile question to ponder, personally! Because Jesus makes his teaching about this personal.
What Jesus does for us personally is to be shared publicly.
When we become a follower of Jesus by faith, we are not given a new set of tools for living, to use or not to use at our option or discretion, in order to make life easier until we find rest in glory.
No! — But when we become a follower of Jesus by faith, it is because God has done something upon our hearts.
God has made us new. We have been born again, as a new creation in the resurrected Christ.
We have been made citizens of that which already is, and is yet to be — the kingdom of heaven.
We are given a new identity. This means —
We do not get to control who we are anymore. We are who God says we are.
We do not get to control what we do anymore. WHO we are, and WHOSE we are, informs what we do!
By the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in us, our new identity — who we ARE — is a people in perfect submission to the Father through Jesus Christ the Son, to give God glory on earth for the great things He has done!

B. Introduction to Text

After teaching about the contentment of the kingdom of heaven — those who are happy and blessed as they are in Christ —
Jesus makes his teaching personal. The “blessed are they” statements become statements directed at “you.”
The “you” is the small group of disciples. His followers who came to him and gathered around him on the mountain.
The “you” is also US, followers of Jesus in the world today.
And Jesus’ first group of disciples are about to learn from Him what we are about to learn from Him, that —
Whatever Jesus does personally in us, Jesus does publicly through us.
Matthew 5:11 ESV
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
The statements of “they” are NOW directed at “you.”
“Blessed are you,” when publicly you are persecuted “on my account.”
In other words, “what I will do in you personally, I will do through you publicly. This will produce outcomes that you will not be pleased with, but on the promise of my word, you will be at peace with.
Matthew 5:12 ESV
12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Jesus relates the persecution his followers will suffer to the persecution the prophets suffered before them.
The prophets spoke the Word of God to the people, and likewise, our persecution will be a result of us speaking the words of Christ to people, too.
Peter and John said it this way, when they were warned “to speak no more to anyone in [the name of Jesus] —
Acts 4:20 ESV
20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
It’s who we are! It’s what we do!
We belong to Jesus! We speak of Jesus!
We can’t stop speaking any more than we can live without breathing. It’s who we are!
Jesus illustrates this in his teaching. Before giving any more commands, he speaks about who his disciples are, to whom belong the kingdom of heaven, in Him.
In Matthew 5:13-16, there are three main movements.
First, Jesus tells his followers that they are salt. A statement of identity. Who they are.
Second, Jesus tells us followers that they are light. Who they are. A statement of identity.
Then, Jesus tells his followers what to do because they are light. A statement of command, informed by identity.
Two-thirds of this text focuses on who his followers are, their identity, and one third focuses on what they are to do — the command.
Jesus is not giving another set of 10 commandments. He’s giving new life for all who will find it in Him.
And the new life Jesus gives, is the light of His life that His followers let shine in the world!

III. Exposition

A. Salt (v.13)

1. “You are the salt of the earth” (5:13a)

Matthew 5:13 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 salt of the earth” (5:13a)
The first word “You” is emphasized here.
“You” — the disciples, not the crowds.
The crowds follow Jesus but are not yet his followers.
They associate themselves with Jesus but are not yet identified with Him.
They are the “cultural Christians.” Those who gather with the saints to “receive” only without ever participating, contributing or giving in worship to God or on mission in the world.
They are the ones who will ride the next wave to the next congregation, to the next movement or the next feeling, because they have no foundation or anchor in Christ.
“You” — the disciples, not those who (verse 11) oppress, harass and lie about you on account of Jesus.
Those people are not the salt of the earth, they are the corruption of it.
This word “earth” ( γῆς ) is a different word than the word “world” ( κόσμος ).
Salt belongs to the “earth,” the place where people dwell (LN).
Salt seasons, giving flavor to something that is bland and tasteless.
Salt preserves, preventing decay and further corruption.
Church —
People need salt. God does not!
The food of God does not need seasoning. There is no process of decay or corruption with God that needs slowed.
Salt was a valuable commodity because it has many uses.
Warren Wiersbe says that Roman soldiers were given rations of salt.
“Our English word salary literally means ‘salt money.’”
Have you ever heard it said of a man: “He is not worth his salt”?
These are built in reminders of how valuable salt once was and even, still is. (Warren Wiersbe, Live Like a King, 161).
Helmut Thielicke points out that Jesus did not say of his disciples: “You are the honeypot of the earth.” The sweetener of the earth.
Jesus says “You are the salt of the earth.”
“Salt bites” (Thielicke).
What happens when you pour salt into a wound? It stings!
Yet it cleans and preserves.
The earth has been corrupted by sin. Human beings on earth, if left to our own ways apart from God, self-destruct.
What is the lesson from the days of Noah, when:
Genesis 6:5 ESV
5 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.
To put it bluntly — Without followers of Jesus being the salt of the earth, the earth would go straight to Hell!
It is the Gospel witness in the earth, the testimony of Jesus Christ, the fulfilling of the Great Commission by disciples of Christ that slows the inevitable decay.
Why do we remain on earth after we are born again in Christ? Why not be immediately taken to heaven? Why stay?
Because we are salt. By our staying and by our words God gives yet one more opportunity for a sinner to repent and come to Jesus in faith.
As the salt of the earth, we speak on earth the things of Jesus.
Colossians makes this association —
Colossians 4:5 ESV
5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.
Colossians 4:6 ESV
6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
I learned something about cooking with salt. You can salt food before, during and after the cooking process — but not all foods require the same salting.
For years I made scrambled eggs. It was a cheap and quick food during college.
I would crack eggs in a bowl, mix them up, and add salt and pepper before putting them in the pan to cook them.
My eggs were always dry, burn, over-cooked, no matter what I tried to add to make them better.
Then not long ago, I watched a video. And the chef said — NEVER salt your eggs before you cook them, because the salt will break down the egg. Instead salt them at the end.
I learned how to cook eggs, and now, my scrambled eggs are delicious. Not dry. Full of flavor.
In the same way, God’s Word instructs us to speak, and to know when to speak.
Matthew 7:6 ESV
6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
A person is not ready for the grace of the Gospel until their proudness is broken with God’s law. Law first, then Gospel.
We must learn how to season our speech, to speak the right way at the right time as kingdom people on earth.

2. “But if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?” (5:13b)

Matthew 5:13 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.
This statement is perplexing: “if salt has lost its taste.”
Can salt lose its taste?
Something that is called salt, that looks like salt, that tastes like salt, but is mixed with other additives or impurities may resemble the real thing, but it can lose its taste and function.
But pure salt can never lose its saltiness.
Why?
Because pure salt — IS salt.
Salt is not what it is because of what it does. Salt does what it does because of what it is!
This is where we get so mixed up as Christians. The tendency, of human nature, the tendency of sin is toward works-righteousness.
“If I give the most money, if I do the most good, if I build the best kingdom” THEN I’m good.
But Jesus teaches that ““If I give the most money, if I do the most good, if I build the best kingdom” and I do it without faith I’m still BAD! I’m still a sinner. And there is no work I can do to change that.
But the gift of God and the grace of the Gospel is this good news that nothing we do makes us who we are - whether good or bad.
What we do is secondary to who we are.
And God doesn’t change our works, God changes our identity so that from our identity we may do good works that please Him and accomplish His will!
If God says you are righteous because you have the righteousness of Christ, then nothing you do will change that.
If God says you are condemned because you have not Christ, then nothing you do will change that.
The work of change belongs to God. Only God can take one thing and turn it into another. Only God can make something old into something new.
Pure salt cannot become something else on its own. It is what it is! --- Salt! And on its own, pure salt cannot lose its taste because salt tastes like salt!
Jesus is speaking about an impossibility!
Much like Hebrews —
Hebrews 6:4 ESV
4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit,
Hebrews 6:5 ESV
5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,
Hebrews 6:6 ESV
6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
It is impossible because the Son of God will not be crucified again.
It is impossible for pure salt to lose its taste.
That word, “to lose its taste” or “to become tasteless” is a sense of a word that means “to make foolish” (BDAG).
One commentator translated this word “to make dumb” (Luz).
For it would be foolish to have salt, but never use it.
It would be foolish to be on earth to speak for Christ the words of life and never speak. To be dumb.
Matthew 5:13 ESV
13 “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.

3. “It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” (5:13c)

If God’s people are unwilling to speak Christ’s name, we are no longer any good.
If we name the name of Christ, and then fall away, we are no longer any good.
Hebrews 10:26 ESV
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
Hebrews 10:27 ESV
27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
Hebrews 10:28 ESV
28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.
Hebrews 10:29 ESV
29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?
Throw this salt down, that it may be trampled under people’s feet, for it is not pure. It is no good.
It has been mixed with impurities. It is too intertwined with the world. It has lost its distinct nature, and thus revealed that it never was, what it claimed to be.
This is judgment. And Jesus surely has in mind the Jewish leaders, religious leaders, who were keeping people from the kingdom of God by their ungodly traditions and burdens.
Matthew 23:13 ESV
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.
Matthew 23:15 ESV
15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
Woe to any of you, who are like these scribes or Pharisees, making people think you walk the walk of faith, to live according to God’s will, you carry a Bible and gather with the church, but in reality you are nothing more than a hypocrite, deceiving others and worse — deceiving your own self!
Repent, before its too late!
God does not keep us on this earth for ourselves.
“Salt is not salt for itself; it is seasoning for food. In the same way the disciples are there not for themselves but for the earth.” (Luz)
We have a purpose among the people of the earth. We are not monastics, hiding away in the desert. We are salt to season the earth with the gospel through our speech and to slow the decay by our witness for Christ.

B. Light (vv. 14-15)

1. “You are the light of the world.” (5:14a)

Matthew 5:14 ESV
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
You are the light of the ( κόσμος ). Not just of the earth, but of all the created universe.
Because Jesus is the light of the world. And His light is shining through you!
John 1:1 ESV
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:2 ESV
2 He was in the beginning with God.
John 1:3 ESV
3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
John 1:4 ESV
4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
John 1:5 ESV
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

2. “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” (5:14b)

Matthew 5:14 ESV
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
This is another impossibility. A city on a hill cannot be hidden, and the kingdom of heaven on earth cannot be hidden.

3. “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.” (5:15)

Matthew 5:15 ESV
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.
Light, like salt, has a function.
It gives light in the darkness. It is elevated to a place where that light will spread as far as it can.
And this world needs light!
The early Church Fathers said it this way:
“The worldly are less like lamps than buckets (Theodore of Mopsuestia), lacking in God, empty from above but full from below (Chrysostom).”
(ACC, 91).
The world are like buckets.
Christians are lamps.
In the darkness, we cannot see salt. We cannot see words, but we can hear them.
But light can be seen! So in our words, and in our works, we are to be witnesses for Jesus in the world.
Using this illustration of light, Jesus turns to a command — A work not standing on its own, but informed by two statements of identity.
Because you are light, then do what light does — SHINE!

C. Command (v.16)

1. “In the same way, let your light shine before others” (5:16a)

Matthew 5:16 ESV
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.
This is the command!
This is what I and we are to teach other people to do — how to shine.
Shine not the light that illuminates from within ourselves as a product of our own goodness. But to shine the light that illuminates from the source that is Christ in us, the light of life.
The moon does not have light within itself. But the moon reflect the light of the sun.
As followers of Jesus, we do not have light within ourselves. But we reflect the light of Christ in us, through the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit.
In learning how to preach online for live streaming, from home during this pandemic, I learned (and am learning) the importance of good lighting.
I bought light boxes to help illuminate my face, so that I might look good on camera!
But that is not what Jesus is talking about. We do not let His light shine so that we might look good.
We let our light shine before people. So that Christ will be made visible for people.
And Christ is made visible to other people through good works.

2. “So that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (5:16b)

Matthew 5:16 ESV
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.
This is the ultimate goal. That the Father would be glorified!

IV. Conclusion

A. Gospel Proclamation

And the most illuminated work in the Scriptures is the good work of Christ, a work of love for the world.
When Jesus humbled himself, became obedient unto death, even the death of a cross.
When Jesus became sin for us, and paid our debt in full on our behalf.
When Jesus was buried in the darkness of a grave that was sealed.
So that in a flash of blinding light, the stone might be rolled away and he might walk out of the grave, the resurrected Christ — the living God!
It is He who shines in us! All who confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in their heart that God raised him from the dead.
John Stott points out that salt and light have one thing in common — they give and expend themselves.
That’s what Jesus did for us — he gave of Himself, He expended Himself, so that we might have life and light.
So that we might shine His light in the world.
Light is needed wherever there is darkness. Salt is needed wherever there is no taste, or decay.
Let us be salt in light, because Jesus is salt and light.
Amen.
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