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You are Salt, You are Light Matt. 5:13-16

August 24, 2014 Series: The Gospel of Matthew

Topic: Sunday AM Passage: Matthew 5:13–5:16

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Salt and Light

Matt. 5:13,14 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
14“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

There is much to say here. Jesus can say volumes with such an economy of words!

In the Bible, everything's connected to everything. Right? It's one of our first rules of hermeneutics. Context Context Context!

And, so before I say anything about salt, I want to look back at what has been immediately just said.

Persecution. The world hates us. We have come out of the world, and the world doesn't like that. We expose them, simply because we're no longer of them. And the result is negative. We get punished, by the world. Sometimes big, but most often, in little things.

Happy are the persecuted. That's what Jesus said. But I see something else happening a lot more often. In fact I'm an expert.

Sure we'll be happy in heaven when we get beat up here. And there's also a rush and a real satisfaction when we get beat up here on earth.

But it's kind of like diving off a high rock into cold water. Your first thought is, it would be really convenient and most comfortable if I just didn't. Sure it's a rush and all that stuff and you feel great having done it, but there's also that threshold thing that you have to overcome. It's just so easy, not to do it.

But here's a 3rd alternative. What if we could eliminate the persecution by closing the gap.

I mean what if it wasn't so noticeable. The difference between us and them. What if we just looked, well, the same.

What if my music was, - their music. What if my language was indistinguishable from theirs. What if I was, well, worldly, just like them, and watched all the same movies as them, and laughed at all their jokes, and wore all the same stuff, and had tatoos, and embraced their morality, and and and . . . .

That would solve the persecution thing. If I was indistinguishably as cool as they all are. It's brilliant. It eliminates the whole reason they wanted to persecute me in the first place!

You see where I'm going, don't you.

Jesus uses a metaphor in order to give us a word picture of truth about His kingdom.

People in His kingdom, under His authority have many of the same characteristics as something as simple as salt. The comparisons are eye opening.

13a. “You are the salt of the earth;

What did He mean. What did these words mean to the people there on the little amphitheater on the mountain when He spoke them.

There are several ideas, and I would not narrow to any one. I think they're all true.

Salt, in that time and place, was a commodity of value. Because of it's various properties and because humans have to have a certain amount of it to live, it was precious.

Ever hear the idiom, "worth his salt"? It refers us to a time when salt wasn't taken for granted. It was precious. Had value.

We pop open those little salt holder thingys from McDonalds and put a little on our fries, and we discard the rest before it spills out on the carpet, right?

So, before modern times, salt had value. Ancient peoples used it as money. It was a barterable commodity. Especially to those folks listening to Jesus that day.

Salt is distinguishable in anything you combine it with. It is distinctive. You can taste the salt distinctly along with whatever else it's with. There's nothing else like it. And it often makes things that had bland flavor, much better. Synergy. More than the sum of the things combined.

We watch that cooking show, "chopped" and the judges will often say, you forgot the salt. They aren't interested in current health trends, they're interested in flavor.

And of course, salt was and still is, a preservative. We don't think about it any more, but before refrigeration, if you wanted to preserve things for later use, you rubbed salt on them. Meat especially. Going on journey by wagon or ship. You'll be eating the salt-pork for a while. It retards the normal corruption of dead flesh.

And, finally, salt is a natural dis-infectant. This goes along with the previous one, but has the added color of being sharply uncomfortable. Salt is good! The wound will heal quickly, but for the time being . . OUCH! Excruciating pain. Salt in a wound.

So which one did Jesus mean in his metaphor?

Well, I think, all of the above.

We are citizens of another world. The kingdom of God. The authority to reign of God, but we still live in enemy territory. Satan's kingdom. And I think we are all of those things, at different times, to different people.

Take first the idea of value. We are precious to this world. Without us, it will die. It must have salt, although often it doesn't want it.

And probably the main thrust here is the idea of distinctiveness. We are set apart from this world. We are distinctively other. In all of it's various benefits, salt is distinctive from the item that it is combined with. We are to be distinctively different as we walk in this world.

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, Paul says in 2Cor. 6:17

The most obvious and universal crossover is the preserving value. When the 'salt' is taken out of the world, the corruption will be immediate, and startling in it's effect. Wickedness with no restraint.

In 2Thess. 2:5-7 Paul says, talking about the world under the rule of the anti-christ; 5Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? 6And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. 7For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.…

God's going to remove His salt, His people, and His Holy Spirit in them, and the result is going to be anarchy. Wickedness. ISIS and ISIL are just the beginning of birth pangs of what this world will experience when God removes His salt. His restrainer. His kingdom people.

I think Paul was thinking of Jesus words on the mountain and gives us an important clue as to how he would interpret this in his letter to the Colossians

Col. 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

Do you see it there. Of all the properties of salt I mentioned; preservative, flavor, healing, distintiveness and value, Paul says we are to discern what property of saltiness it is that they need, and be that supply.

And this effect will be natural. It's not like we walk into every room and try to figure out how to be salt in every situation. Jesus said we are the salt of the earth.

As we get serious about this book, and get into it's doctrines and precepts, and as we submit our lives humbly to do all that this book is teaching us, we don't have to think about being salt, we ARE salt.

Jesus said You are the salt of the earth;

Think in terms of the 2 opposing kingdoms. Authority to reign of God. Limited authority to reign of Satan. The salt belongs to God. The earth temporarily belongs to Satan.

We bring all of those qualities, all of those characteristics of salt to Satan's earth. The influence of salt is actually enough to be somewhat of a balance and a limit to the influence of evil.

Notice that I qualified Satan's kingdom. It is limited. By God. God is still sovereign over Satan. Just like in the book of Job, Satan has limits, set by God.

And one of those limits, in the wisdom of God, is the restraining character of God's people. We are Salt. They are Earth. Salt is distinctively "other"

So, here's the scenario; We are going to commit ourselves to the study of this book until it's flowing in our very veins. Our blood is going to be 'bibline'

The quote is from C. H. Spurgeon and he was talking about John Bunyan;

I would quote John Bunyan as an instance of what I mean. Read anything of his, and you will see that it is almost like the reading the Bible itself. He had read it till his very soul was saturated with Scripture; and, though his writings are charmingly full of poetry, yet he cannot give us his Pilgrim’s Progress—that sweetest of all prose poems — without continually making us feel and say, “Why, this man is a living Bible!” Prick him anywhere—his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God. I commend his example to you, beloved.

That is the goal of my ministry. Poor as it may be, we have time on our side, I hope. I want every one of you to be like Bunyan. Prick you anywhere and your blood is Bibline. When that is truly the case, you ARE salt. This book is Salt.

Sometimes we are simply the Godly flavor - in the room. The salt that brings out the flavor that's already there.

In 2Corinthians 2, Paul talks of such an effect. We'll double up our metaphor's but the idea is equivalent. It's exactly what I'm trying to describe in how Salt is synergistic with flavor. Paul uses smell instead of flavor. Same thing. Exactly.

2Cor.2:14 - 16 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?

In Hebrews 6, (I always want to say Paul and then correct myself and say) the author talks about people who have tasted of the heavenly gift, and tasted of the word of God . . yet fall short of real salvation.

They are examples of having been intimate in some way with the Salt of the word of God. That can only happen when they rub up against God's people. They tasted the saltiness. But they never crossed over from Satan's kingdom into Gods.

Sometimes salt preserves against corruption and decay. We talked about this at the first. We are ever and always working against the corruption of this world. Little course corrections.

I just finished a book (available if anyone is interested) by Chuck McIlhenny titled "When the Wicked Seize a City". It's the story of a biblical Presbyterian pastor who takes a church in San Francisco and dares to oppose the gay rights movement.

They threaten his life, his wife's life, his childrens lives. They constantly paint graffiti on his house and break out his windows. They firebombed his house. His little children were traumatized to sleep in rooms with windows on the perimiter.

The gays sued him. Sued his church. And yet this one man, one salty man was able, for a time, to overturn legislation that the gays wanted.

He bore the brunt. But he acted as a presevative, for a time, against the worlds corruption. The problem is he was largely alone. Where was the rest of the salt.

It is an indication of how "unsalty" the salt is that in the end, we're losing this battle of culture shift. There wasn't enough salt to preserve the world from the corruption of immorality, and in my lifetime, the church has failed to be the purifying agent it was designed to be. Slaughter of babies. 1973 Sodomite marriage 40 years later.

Where was the salt. It is an indicater of the saltiness of the church. We're failing to hold back the corruption of the ever present death.

Jude has a helpful little verse about salt, though he doesn't mention salt itself, just some of the different effects of it;

He says; 22 And have mercy on some, who are doubting; 23save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.

I see in there, the idea of salt as dis-infectant. This is unpleasant. It's no fun to inflict pain. Salt in a wound can cause pain that can almost make someone who is weak pass out. Excruciating pain!

And empathy makes us avoid that almost as much as the one infected with sin WANTS to avoid it. Painful for them. Painful for us. But look at the result. By being salt, we can some times snatch a person right out of the flames of hell.

His language is such that the pollution can be gagging. Foul. Putrified garments.

Of such situations, James says; 19My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, 20let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Salt as dis-infectant. How unpleasant, for everybody! Do we do it?

That's the perfect lead in to what Jesus says next;

13b . . . but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

People who want to explain away Bible innerancy come to this verse and say, see, Jesus made a mistake here. Science has now taught us that salt is one of the most stable compounds on earth. It does not degrade. Sodium Chloride.

And to these folks, I would love to say, go to weatherunderground.com and tell me Q. what time is sunrise tomorrow? A. Sunrise 6:10 AM and sunset 7:32 PM.

Does the sun rise, or set? Hypocrite! Why will you force terminology on the Bible that the rest of the world doesn't use. Fools. The Bible is not a scientific textbook.

The fact is that in ancient times salt was usually combined with other things and was not available in the pure form that we take for granted.

So there's a ratio of purity. Salt and whatever else is there that we have to live with in order to get the benefit of the salt.

What happens when the ratio gets too big. A grain of salt in a dump truck of manure. It doesn't help the french fries any more, does it.

The church, unfortunately, has never been pure. There's always a ratio that effects how salty, the "salt" is.

For the sake of pushing our metaphor, let's say we have a bowl, called the church, and it's full of pure white salt, and the enemy comes and pours in sugar.

At first we think, 'you know, sugar is sort of nice. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Everybody likes sugar'. So we don't get too upset about the sugar in the salt bowl. In fact we don't do much about it at all, and the enemy just keeps adding sugar and adding sugar.

Sugar rots teeth. Sugar makes us fat. Sugar gives us a coma. Sugar clogs our arteries. But we LOVE it. AND!! the world loves it too.

The bowl's still pretty. All those white crystals. But when do we cross over that threshold where the so called "salt" in the saltbowl has none of the effects of saltiness?

I give you the modern 'mega-church' in American Evangelicalism, in very many cases. A church isn't bad, just because it's big. But from what I'm seeing and experiencing on an admittedly small scale, is that evangelicalism in the US is more sugar than salt.

Jesus wrote a letter to that church. You'll accuse me of metaphor-mixing, but the idea of what Jesus is talking about to this church is identical to the salt and no longer salty, metaphor that Jesus uses on the Sermon on the mount. Identical problem. Salt that is no longer salty. Useless salt. Not only useless, but about to be cast out; Salt with so much manure mixed in, well . . .

Rev. 3:14-22 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: 15‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16‘So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. 17‘Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. 20‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. 21‘He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

We need to stop and take that inventory. Personally. Corporately. Are we salt? Or are we sugar. Jesus wants us to be salt. Distinctive. Set apart. Identifiably salty.

With everything we've said, the next metaphor will be easy. We could just say all of it over again. Or not.

Jesus says; 14“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

You are the light of the world. This is slightly different. Salt is flavor. Distinctiveness in a world of manure.

Light always has to do with God revealing Himself. God is a God of LIGHT!

Satan's world; We hinted at this last week. Genesis 1:2. The second verse in the Bible. 2The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.

God's world; Next 3 verses. 3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

We live in a mixture of both, don't we. After Adam's fall, the world is dark, and we see remnants of the creation that God called good.

Some day, when Jesus takes this planet back from Satan, when that conflagration is over, we'll be in a world that the prophet Habakkuk describes in chapter 2 vs 14 of his prophecy;

Hab. 2:14 “For the earth will be filled
With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD,
As the waters cover the sea.

If that doesn't give you goose bumps of anticipation, you need to go take a salt bath.

God is GLORY! God is light! That is the future of this planet.

But, not now. Right now, we're back to the two opposing kingdoms idea. Satan is current "prince of this world" in the very words of Jesus, and if he had his way, he'd take it back to genesis 1 vs. 2. Formless. Void. Darkness. No glory of the God of Light. At all.

But God is sovereign over Satan, and he doesn't get what he wants. It pleased God to introduce light into this fallen world, one saint at a time.

You - are - the - light - of - the - world

You can argue that the creation is still light. Yes, but even the creation was subjected to futility and death as a result of Adam's fall. We can see the evidence of God in the creation. And that evidence is enough to damn men to hell. But sadly, the fallen creation cannot reveal the truth's necessary to move men out of Satan's kingdom and into God's kingdom.

It pleased God, in His wisdom, to use men to bridge that gap in revelation. God depends on men to reveal His truth to other men. He has carefully given revelation to chosen men. We have it in this book. But there's still a gap between us who hold these truth's and the rest of the world held captive in Satan's kingdom.

It is our job, and responsibility, to share that truth, with men, in Satan's world. That's God's design. That's how it has to happen. That's what Jesus is saying to the disciples here in these verses, written down for us by the apostles who heard them from the mouth of God.

14“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

A city set on a hill cannot be hidden

Oh! That's an easy one for us who live in Tonopah. You're on Hwy 95 in the blackness of the desert night, and you come around that last hill, and there's Tonopah, gleaming up on it's hill.

Pity the people who live where there are trees! We understand this verse.

15nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

This is not a difficult saying. Especially to the folks in Jesus day who didn't have the power company, and lights with switches on the wall.

Light was costly. There had to be something to convert into light energy. Oil. It cost money, just like today, but we take ours for granted because of the efficiency of modernity. We still make light energy from oil. And may be doing it that way for some time to come. (streamers at the Solar Plant) (hmm, we've finally figured out how to boil salt and turn it into energy to convert to light. There's just gotta be a sermon illustration in there somewhere!)

Light was costly to the ancients. So Jesus here illustrates His point with the rediculous. Nobody goes to the trouble to light a lamp, and then cover it up so the light is trapped inside. What good is that!

Again, the little greek word este. You are. Verb. Present indicative active. 2nd person plural.

Jesus doesn't say please, will you be salt in the world. Please, will you be light.

He says you ARE those things. And to not be those things, is impossible. Rediculous. Nobody lights a lamp and covers it up. That's impossible.

So we need to check our spiritual pulse. There isn't room for gradation here. He just says; You are.

Well, Are we? It's that simple. Scary! but simple.

Another little word study. In the greek, the word for light is phos. We get our word we use for light particles from it. Photons. Also the root word for painting with light. Photography.

The word for the lamps he's talking about is lychnon. They were a way to make the phos, the light portable. Portable light in the darkness.

That is such a picture of us. The world is darkness. Hopelessly dark with no provision for any light at all, except, God has lamps, that He pours His light into. We are lamps. Little portable containers of light. Intermixed in the world, just the same way salt is.

We are distinctive in the world because of the light. This book. We gather here on Sundays, and peer into this book and we get a refill for our lamps. We pray for the Holy Spirit to pour more light in. Then we go back out into the world, all our various places, and we light up the darkness. Jesus said;

16“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Light illumines. That's what it does.

This verse reminds me of a village in Ethiopia.

I can talk about Salt and Light all day long, but I would encourage you to go to Youtube dot com and type in "A tale of two women, World Vision" and watch the 7 minute video of my brother's wife and of course, my quiet brother beside her acting out for the entire world to see, Salt and Light.

We need to get busy.