SALT AND LIGHT
The Sermon on the Mount = Matthew 5, 6, and 7.
- What Jesus proclaims is a vision for the people of God, the kingdom people, and it reveals what we must be for the sake of the Lord's mission. What Jesus declares though is not an idea that will simply change the church, it is an way of life that seeks to transform all the world.
Who Are You? Salt and Light
- Jesus tells us that those whoreceive his teaching and "put it into practice" are like a wise man who builds his house on the rock. His teaching is the foundation of a blessed, kingdom way of living.
- This is a way of life that goes beyond rule-keeping. This is more than regulations on what to do and not do. He is calling us to BE salt and light - to let our light shine so that the good things we do glorify God. What does it mean to BE salt and light? ...
- [The NATURE of Salt and Light]
- Salt is a seasoning and a preservative. The presence of salt in food makes a difference. It creates zest and prevents decay.
- Contradictions of language: jumbo shrimp, late advance registration, mild hot sauce.
- Unsalty salt is just as much of a foolish contradiction.
- It is the nature of salt to be salty!
- Light overcomes darkness and illuminates. It reveals dangers and shows the way to safety.
- It is ridiculous to light a lamp and then cover it. The purpose is for the lamp to shine.
- It is the nature of light to shine!
- "Salt and Light" say something about the nature of God's kingdom people. Notice also that Jesus declares these as true! Without reservation or qualification he declares that WE ARE salt and light.
- Salt and Light are not projects or programs that we undertake; this statement is not meant to describe an achievement or a goal, it describes our character as the people of God!
- Jesus is saying that this is our being! The nature of salt is saltiness. The nature of light is illumination. When a city is placed on a hill, it is not hidden.
What we do emerges from who we are!
- In the film, Weapons of the Spirit, Pierre Sauvage tells the story of a village in Nazi-occupied France, Le Chambon. 5000 Jewish refugees were saved from the terrors of the Holocaust by the 5000 people of Le Chambon. Sauvage was born in that city and he had to know why this village of Christian people would risk their lives and the fate of their village to shelter Jewish refugees. Sauvage found that the people of Le Chambon had a strong sense of self and history - they knew who they were. The villagers of Le Chambon did not consider themselves heroic, they did not agonize over the decision to help the refugees. They simply did what was natural! What they did emerged from who they were!
- Our good works emerge from our identity as the blessed children of God. When people see those sort of good works, God will be glorified because the light than shines from us is reflected from our God who is light.
- Mars is one of the brightest objects in the sky right now, but it has no light of its own.
- God is described as light and in him is no darkness (1 John 1:5). Jesus calls himself the light of the world (John 9:5). These describe the character of the God and Christ. In the kingdom we share in that divine character. Kingdom people are like their king ...
[The Higher Righteousness of the Kingdom]
- But that can seem so intimidating! When Jesus tells us to "be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect" (Mt. 5:48) - is that even possible?
- Jesus must have believed that such righteousness was possible for he makes it essential to being a part of God's reign. He insisted that our righteousness had to surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees ... (Matthew 5:20)
- The problem of the scribes and Pharisees was that they used the law and prophets as binding legislation to react to situations. We do the same thing when all we strive to do is find the legislative bond or loophole that justifies or confirms our actions. But this sort of rule-keeping does not generate godliness or holiness.
- The external image is met, but the internal character of BEING a disciple is weak. Col. 2:23 - "Such regulations look good, but lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence."
- The law and the prophets were not regulations given so we could make distinctions among people. The intent of the law and the prophets was to shape the character of a people - a people with godly character would by nature be distinctive!
- That's why Jesus declares (5:21-48 - Class material) that it isn't enough to say, "I've never killed anyone." You need to overcome anger. It isn't enough to say "I've never committed adultery." Maybe so, but is your heart pure or is it corrupted with lust? Have we just kept the rules, or are we reflecting the nature of our Father? That's the test of kingdom righteousness ...
HOW exactly does our righteousness surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees? Kingdom righteousness differs from the righteousness of scribes and Pharisees (ancient or modern) in two important ways:
- First, kingdom righteousness is for the sake of others; not simply for our select group and certainly not to earn a reward. Notice that we are the salt of the EARTH and the light of the WORLD. In his declaration, Jesus declares that the presence of the kingdom is for the world!
Second, it emerges from our being and not just our doing. When we ARE salt and light our righteousness becomes a reflex and a discipline. It is our nature to be salty. It is our nature to shine.
- April 1912 - Lifeboat 14 did what no other life boat did - They went back to save others. They knew that a lifeboat was for much more than the safety of the saved, it is for the rescue of the dying.
- As righteous people, we are called out - not in contempt for the world, but for the sake of the world!
- We overcome anger, lust, lying, and revenge, because like our Father we love others - including those who hate us. We do this not because he told us to; we do this because he told us who we are!
- We live in response to God's grace and mercy. Our good works are not an attempt to claim salvation or earn God's favor. The Holy Spirit is a gift. Those who have been baptized are new creation - and their good works, their righteousness, flows from who we have become in Christ.
WHY exactly must our righteousness surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees?
- The first teaching in Matthew anticipates the final teaching. In Matthew, Jesus leaves his disciples with a mission and a promise. He promises that he will always be with them, and their mission is to make disciples. ["Making Disciples Eager to Serve Others"]
- But how can we make disciples if we are not disciples ourselves? We can only share the joy of the gospel and the blessings of the kingdom if that is who we are. This is why Jesus declares that we ARE salt of the earth and light of the world.
- The Point Bolivar Lighthouse [Texas]. It has the structure, form, and the appearance and the history of a grand lighthouse that has saved many. But it has no light! We need good form, solid structure and thank God for healthy heritage - but we need His Spirit to ignite our light!
I think a lighthouse is needed in Western Arkansas even though we are not on the coast. Good news! Jesus says - We Are that Lighthouse!
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 7 September 2003
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