Let’s share together in a word of prayer. Father, we thank You for the great day we’ve already had. I thank You because my own heart is so full; I just feel so overwhelmed with all of the events of today, and yesterday, and the past week. And I pray, Lord, that somehow I might in a very small way be faithful to fulfill the expectation of these people who are so gracious to me and to my wife and family. Thank You, Father, for the high calling You’ve given to all of us, and to me, especially to teach and present Your Word. Bless us tonight, Lord, and fill our hearts with joy as we share together, and also with conviction and insight, we might understand what it really means to be salt and light in the world. May we really hear You speak, we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
Let’s look at Matthew chapter 5, verses 13 through 16. Here, our Lord, in the Sermon on the Mount, directs His attention away from the multitudes to the group of disciples gathered closest to Him, and He says to them, “Ye are the salt of the earth; but if the salt have lost its savor, with what shall it be salted? It is thereafter good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden and to be trodden underfoot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a lampstand, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
A magazine once carried a series of pictures, and that series of pictures depicted one of the saddest stories imaginable. The first picture was a picture of a vast wheat field in Kansas. It was a farm in Western Kansas, and from horizon to horizon, all you could see was the wheat waving in the wind. The second picture was of a mother in distress inside her farmhouse in the middle of that wheat field. She had a small boy who had somehow wandered away from the house into that wheat field, and the little fellow was so small that he couldn’t be seen; she couldn’t find him. She had called for her husband, and the two of them had searched all day long for that little fellow; and they finally decided that they should call the neighbors, who began to search frantically all over the wheat field with no success. And they knew the boy was too little to see above the wheat and find his own way out, and so the picture showed her in great distress.
The third picture depicted all the people who had heard of the little boy being lost, gathered in the morning, joining their hands, hand-to-hand, and in a great, long line of humanity, linked only by their hands, sweeping from one end of that wheat field to the next. The last picture was a heartbreaker. The last picture was a picture of the father standing over the body of his little son. They had finally found him, but he was dead, and it was too late. The cold, cold night had claimed its victim. And underneath the final picture of a weeping father were these words: “O God, if we had only joined hands sooner.” What a heart-searching story that is.
Listen, people, Jesus said, as He looked out over the fields, “The field is white unto harvest, but the laborers are” – what? – “few.” You know, I really believe there’s a world of lost men, there’s a world of lost women, there’s a world of lost boys and girls, way out in the field of the world, and they can’t find home, they can’t find the Father’s house, they can’t see above the wheat of the world, and they’re perishing in the night of sin; and when the cold morning dawns, it’ll be too late. And the Lord Jesus Christ, I believe right here in Matthew 5:13 to 16, is saying to us, “Join hands. Join hands. Be salt and light. Sweep through the field of the world to find all of those who are desperately in need of your influence and your message.”
And I don’t think one or two can do it. I don’t think two can do it. I don’t even think a handful can do it. I think the whole church has to join hands and be collective salt. Salt is useless as far as one grain is concerned, and light is a combination of fluorescence. We’ve got to take hands and sweep through the world; and that’s the message that Jesus is giving us right here. We are salt and we are light to reach the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and this is the vital message contained in our Lord’s words. He has followed up the Beatitudes.
In the Beatitudes, He says, “Here’s the character I expect you to have, and if you have this kind of character, then you’re a child of My kingdom. And if you have this character, and you are a child of My kingdom, here’s your job: sweep through the world as salt and light, and make a difference.”
Jesus is calling on us, as we saw in our last study, to influence the world for His glory, to find the lost before it’s too late. And the key is what’s gone on in the verses before. Having magnificently come to know the principles and the qualities that render us effective for God, that bring us into His kingdom, that make us distinct from the world, He now tells us, “Move out into the world with that marvelous distinctiveness, and find those that are lost, and bring them to Christ.” The supreme matter in the kingdom is character. Character is the issue. The character described in the Beatitudes makes it possible for us to affect the world.
You know, I really worry a lot in my own heart about Grace Community Church in this regard. I think, you know, we can get to the place where we are so in love with each other, if you will, and we are so thrilled about everything that goes on here, and we’re so happy about it all, and we sit in little groups and disciple each other, and we pray with each other, and we counsel each other, and we talk to each other; and the fact is that we’re always in danger that we’ll never link hands and sweep through the world, that we’ll never crawling out of our ivory tower of the bliss of our Christian fellowship. The Lord is saying that that’s something we have to do. The emphatic is here; we are the only salt and we are the only light the world will ever know.
So you notice that the final Beatitude is transitional, don’t you. The final Beatitude is in verse 10: “Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” Verse 11: “Blessed are you when men shall revile you, persecute you, say all manner of evil against you falsely.” In other words, the world is going to hate us, and persecute us. We expect that to happen; we don’t expect it to be easy. And I believe it will get harder and harder all the time. It isn’t going to get easier.
We had a little house next door here, and we had our special people in our house – the handicapped people. They’d get in there for a couple hours on a Sunday morning. But there’s been a ruling by a judge somewhere that says a house cannot be used for religious purposes without a permit, even if you own the house.
Sam Erickson, on our staff, called the city to find out about that, and he said this. He said, “You mean if I want to have some people over to my house to study the Bible that we have to have a permit?” They said, “Yes.” He said, “What if I want people to come over to my house and drink beer and watch pornographic movies?” “That’s fine.” “But then if we decide to talk about the Bible, we have to have a permit?” “That’s right.” I don’t know what that means for the future, but I don’t think it’s going to get any easier. I think the price is going to be paid.
And I think God wants us to confront the world. And just because the world persecutes us, and reviles us, and says all manner of evil against us falsely; and just because it seems impossible that in a country where the Constitution says no law could ever be passed that takes away any of the freedom of religion at all from anybody, we’re facing the fact that you can’t have a Bible study in your house without a permit. I really don’t think that it’s going to get any easier. I don’t think that just because the world makes it tough on us, we don’t crawl in a hole, we don’t keep our mouth shut, we don’t hide; we come right into verse 13: “We are salt in the world, and we are light in the world.”
Now to better understand this concept, I told you last time there are four great truths that you need to grip. First, the presupposition, then the plan, then the problem, and then the purpose. Now I want to give you these quickly tonight. I know you heart is already full from so many other things today, and we’ve already had such a wonderful time, that I don’t want to just drag you out. But I want to fire them at you quick, and I want you to get them.
The presupposition in this text is the decay and darkness of the world. The very text presupposes decay and darkness. Where you need salt, you have decay; and where you need light, you have darkness. And so our Lord is saying, “Here’s the presupposition: we are living in a decadent, dark world.”
And that’s really what I was trying to say to you this morning. We’ve got to be different. We can’t affect the world unless we’re different. Our lives have to be different; our relationships have to be different; our homes have to be different. And God could look at our world as He looked at that antediluvian, that pre-flood world, and said, “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
We live in a dark and decadent world; that is the presupposition to what Jesus says. Our world is a desperate world; and just because they make it hard on us, we can’t stop preaching, because there’s somebody lost out in that field, and we’ve got to sweep through the world no matter what the price.
The second thing we talked about last time was the plan. The presupposition is the darkness and decay of the world; the plan is the dominion of the disciples. We’ve got to move in the world and dominate it. Notice in verse 13, “Ye we are the salt.” Verse 14: “Ye are the light.” Verse 16: “Let your light so shine.”
What is God’s plan to deal with this darkened, decaying world? His plan is us; it’s us. There isn’t anybody else. It isn’t going to be given to anyone else. It doesn’t belong to famous evangelists. They’ll never touch the people you touch. It doesn’t belong to great preachers. It doesn’t belong to people on the radio and television, and people who write books. It belongs to all of us. This is God’s divine plan. The pronouns in verses 13 and 14 are emphatic: “Ye only are the salt. Ye only are the light. If you don’t do it, there’s nobody to do it.”
Now look closely at the symbols. Last time, we studied salt. Salt speaks of influence, of influence. Salt is the silent testimony. Salt is our moving through the world and affecting it with our very life. We said that salt basically has five basic functions: purity, flavor, sting – in a wound, thirst – it creates thirst, and a preservative. And we are to be, in the world, pure, glistening white against the darkness of the world. We are to flavor life with the wonder of God’s presence among us. We are to sting and convict the sinful wound of the world. We are to create a thirst for Christ by the very way we live, as Israel is to be provoked to jealousy by the church. And we are to be a preservative; we are an antiseptic in the world to retard the spread of its corruption. If it weren’t for Christians in the world, the world would be far more corrupt that it is now. We preserve it.
And by the way, you notice it says in verse 13, “You are the salt of the earth.” This covers the whole earth. We are the only salt the whole earth will ever know. And Jesus is saying that the earth is like a carcass, slowly but relentlessly deteriorating, rotting, and in great need of some power to restrain that corruption, to create a thirst for God, to sting sin’s wound, to flavor life, and to bring purity to some dark and decaying soul. We are that salt. This is our witness as the silent impact of a godly life.
Listen, the way to change the world isn’t to change it politically. The way to change the world isn’t to rewrite the laws. It isn’t to march, and it isn’t to try to use all of the technical paraphernalia for altering society. The way to change the world, people, is just to infiltrate it with godliness, and righteousness, and holiness, and affect it from the inside out. Now those other things aren’t wrong, but they are going to be powerless, unless our lives are what they ought to be.
Think about it this way. Never has the church been more involved in social action in our country. Never has the church been more involved in social action in recent history in our country. Never have we been so preoccupied with endeavoring to see Christianity in government. And what is the result? A society that’s more immoral than it’s ever been, because that’s not the way to do it. The way to do it is the influence of a godly life.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones says this, and I quote: “Most competent historians are agreed in saying that what undoubtedly saved England from a revolution such as was experienced in France at the end of the 18th century was nothing but the evangelical revival. This was not done because anything was done directly, but because masses of individuals had become Christians, and they were living this better life, and they had this higher outlook. The whole political situation was affected, and the great acts of Parliament which were passed in the last century were mostly due to the fact that there were such large numbers of individual Christians found in the land.” End quote. What he’s saying is that they dominated the land by the power of their testimony.
It’s wonderful to think of the fact that God could turn around a whole nation, He could turn around a whole world by using us. God uses simple things, you know that. God uses simple, mundane, everyday, routine, common things for the most amazing purposes. You know, when He made man in the garden, He didn’t use gold, He didn’t use silver, He didn’t even use iron; He used dirt. That ought to give you right from the start kind of an idea of how He works.
When He called David to deliver Israel from the Philistines, He didn’t want Saul, the great king; and He didn’t want Saul’s massive armor. He used a shepherd and a couple of stones, that’s all. And when He came into the world, He didn’t enter the family of the wealthy and the noble, and He didn’t find Himself born in a castle; He simply chose a peasant girl and a stable.
And when He chose the twelve, He didn’t choose the elite, and the educated, and the affluent; He just chose a group of ignorant Galileans. And the Bible says, “Not many mighty, and not many noble.” And that’s the way it always has been, because God gets the greater glory in the humbleness of the one that He uses. So He uses us, grains of sand, to influence a corrupting world.
But it doesn’t stop with influence. And now we come to the second thing, and that’s light. Verse 14: “You are the light of the world.” And now we move to another thought here. Salt and light balance each other in this sense. Salt is hidden; you don’t see it at all. It just melts away into whatever it flavors or preserves. It works secretly to preserve from the inside. But light shines on the outside, and light is open, and light is working visibly.
In other words, the salt is the influence of Christian character. It is quiet, but it is powerful. Light is the communication of the content of the gospel. And so you have both sides. On the one hand, we live it; on the other hand, we preach it. On one hand, from the inside, we affect society’s thinking and society’s living by the power of our lives. On the other hand, we turn on the light, so that everyone can see the message we want to give.
And it isn’t just in our words, it’s in our very overt, open, godly conduct. We are not to be just a subtle influence like salt, we are to be a very open and blatant influence such as light; because, you see, salt can’t change corruption into incorruption. Salt can only retard the corruption. That’s only a negative function. Salt only holds back the corruption. We have to turn on the light of the gospel to transform that corruption into incorruption.
And, of course, our light is primarily indicated in verse 16: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” That implies, first of all, that they see our good works. Secondly, they glorify our Father in heaven. That means they’ve heard something about our Father in heaven. It implies both a life and a message lived and spoken. And so here we are as salt, retarding the things of corruption in the world. But at the same time, as light, we speak the truth of the light, and live the truth of the light, so there’s an overt and positive testimony as well.
You remember back in Acts 1:1 where the apostle writes – where Luke writes, and he says, “The former letter have I made unto you, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began to do and to teach.” And ever and always, people, those two things go together: the living and the speaking. Our light is a matter of living the righteous life, and of uttering out the righteous content, righteous the truth.
If you study the Bible, you’ll find that light is related to the knowledge of God. Light is related to the true knowledge of God. For example, just a couple of Scriptures. In Psalm 36:9, it says this: “For with Thee is the fountain of life; in Thy light shall we see light.” So the first thing we have to realize is that God is light – right? – 1 John, chapter 1. “In Thee is the fountain of life, and in Thy light shall we see light.” God is light; so if we are to be light, then we must manifest God.
In Psalm 119:105 it says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a” – what? – “light to my path.” God is light; the Word is light.
In the New Testament, our Lord Jesus Christ says, “I am the light of the world. He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall see the light of life.” So we see that God is light, and the Bible or the Word of God is light, and Christ is light; and that is the light that we are to shine on the world. We are to tell them about God, we’re to tell them about God’s Word, and we’re to tell them about God’s Christ. That’s letting the light shine. And it’s got to be spoken, and then it’s got to be supported by a life – doesn’t it? – that is consistent.
Remember I read to you this morning when we opened our service Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my” – what? – “light and my salvation.” So the fact is, if you want to know what light is in the Bible, it’s just a comprehensive term referring to all of God’s revelation: the revelation of Himself, of His Word, and of His Son. That’s light. And so we are to proclaim the message of light in a dark world, as well as to be salt in a decaying one.
In Luke 1:77, the purpose for which Christ came: “To give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.” That’s why He came, to give light to them in darkness. And so what our Lord is saying here is that, collectively, we manifest the light. He’s the sun, we’re just moons, right? He is the real light, He is the essence of light; we’re reflectors, that’s all.
John 1:9, “Christ is the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” He’s the only true light, but we are reflectors of that light. He’s the sun, and we’re the moons.
And, beloved, I think this is the primary duty of the church, to be light in the world, to spread the message of salvation, not just to sit around talking to each other; that’s wonderful. And having fellowship is wonderful; and it’s rich, and that’s exciting. But sooner or later, we’ve got to be light in the world, and we’ve got to be salt in the earth, and we’ve got to get out from just being wrapped up in ourselves.
In 2 Corinthians chapter 4, and verse 6, let me give you just a free rendering in that verse: “God, who first ordered the light to shine in the darkness, has flooded our hearts with His light. We now can enlighten men, only because we can give them knowledge of the glory of God as we have seen it in the face of Jesus Christ.”
I’ll read it again: “God, who first ordered the light to shine in darkness has flooded our hearts with His light. And we now can enlighten men, only because God has given us the knowledge of His glory as we’ve seen it in the face of Christ.” So, you see, God passes the light all the way down through us. So important.
The Jews in Romans 2 claimed to be light. The apostle Paul denies that. Their light had gone out. They weren’t lights anymore. The Jews used to say that Jerusalem was a light to the Gentiles. In fact, a famous rabbi once called the city of Jerusalem “the lamp of Israel.” But it wasn’t true anymore. And when Jesus spoke these words that day on the hillside, Jerusalem wasn’t any light. God’s light wasn’t there anymore. That was no lamp. The world was in darkness.
And so Jesus says, “It isn’t Jerusalem anymore that’s the light, it isn’t Israel anymore that’s the light, it isn’t the Jewish people anymore that are light; you only are the light.” The church would be the light. The ones who followed Jesus Christ would be the light. And so it’s been all along; we’re the light.
Philippians chapter 2, verse 14 puts it this way: “Do all things without murmurings and disputings; that ye may become blameless and harmless children of God, without rebuke.” Oh, that’s it, folks. You’ve got to live the life. You’ve got to live the live, see. The life has to be there: a blameless life – harmless, and blameless, and without rebuke.
Listen, if they’re going to criticize us, let them have to make up something, because there is nothing they can use. If we have to be hated, let us be like Christ: hated without a – what? – a cause. Why? Because we are to be blameless, harmless children of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked, perverse nation, “among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” See, we are the lights, holding forth the Word of Life.
Jesus illustrates this thought right here in Matthew 5. He says we’ve got to be visible, folks. We can’t just be secret influence, we’ve got to be visible, and the light has to shine openly. Verse 14 of Matthew 5 says, “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
Now if you ever traveled in the Holy Land in the time of the Lord, and perhaps even today, you’d be impressed with the fact that the villages are built on the tops of the hills. I’ll never forget going through Galilee, and it seemed like every village you saw just kind of sat up on a little hill. I remember going to Cana, and seeing Cana up against a hill. And then further up to the left a little ways to the north, I saw Nazareth up on a hill. And all the little villages were set up on a hills. And they could be cooled on the hill by the breezes that blew in the day, and they could be more easily defended. And when night came, it was a very common custom for them to light a lamp in the house, and it just made the little village sparkle, and anyone who was walking through the night could easily find his way to the village, because he could see the lights sparkling on a hill.
So the point is a city couldn’t be hidden. Everybody knew that light was for the purpose of manifesting. And it’s amazing to think about the fact that a Christian would say, “Well, I know God’s light has shined in my heart, but I don’t see that I have any need to shine anywhere else.”
You’re light, my friend, and light isn’t supposed to be hidden. You’re a city on a hill. The point is conspicuousness. We’re not just subtle salt; we’re very conspicuous light. Every traveler knew where the refuge was, every traveler knew where the little village was, because the lights sparkled like diamonds in the sky.
We’re not Masons in a secret society. We’re not Pagans, with mysteries only for the initiated. We don’t have a cult known only to the few; we’re a city set on a hill. The whole world ought to see us. By the way, that’s why I love these doors that you can see through. I just love people to drive up and down Roscoe Boulevard and say, “Look at all those people. What are they doing in there?” We’re a city set on a hill. And, you know, we’ve got to be salt before we can be light. We’ve got to have the character and the influence before we have a message that is believable. So that’s the divine plan. That’s the plan.
The presupposition: a dark and decaying world. The plan: the dominion of the disciples as the dominate the world by their influence as salt, and by their message and content as light. Thirdly, the presupposition and plan also includes a problem.
There is a problem, folks. If the presupposition is the darkness and decay of the world, if the plan is the dominion of the disciples, then the problem is the danger of failure; and there is that danger, there is that danger. With this tremendous responsibility, there is an attendant danger. We are salt and light, but we need to be warned, because if sin enters our lives, and if we don’t walk in the Spirit, then we will stop being effective as salt, and we will be useless as light.
Look at verse 13 again: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its saltiness, what good is it?” Non-salty salt, folks, has absolutely no use. “It is thereafter good for nothing, but to be cast out to be trodden underfoot of men.”
Verse 15: “Neither do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a lampstand, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” The point is this: salt is only good when it’s got saltiness, and light is only good when it’s conspicuous . There’s no place for a secret disciple; there is no place for a secret Christian.
Let’s look at the concept of salt. And our Lord says the danger here is that salt could lose its saltiness. Mōrainō in the Greek, it means flat and tasteless. It could become flat and tasteless.
Now there have been many explanations of this. Some say, “Well, you know, the salt we have today doesn’t lose its saltiness.” And that, for the most part, is true. But in that day, it wasn’t nearly as refined. In fact, the salt from the marshes, and the lagoons, and the rocks around the Dead Sea – which, by the way, was a tremendous, and still is a tremendous repository for salt. You can go to the Dead Sea and just lay flat on your back, and you’ll just bob there; it’s incredible. And we’ve done that.
But the salt there is just in abundance. But it easily acquired, in that time, and still, because of its impurity, a stale or alkaline taste, because it was mixed with gypsum, which was also there. And so that kind of salt would lose its capability to salt, and it would become very, very alkaline, very stale, and so forth, and the only thing it was good for was to throw out on the road where people walked on it. You didn’t want to throw it on a field, because it would kill everything growing there. So they threw it on the road, where all that would happen would be it would be trampled.
By the way, natural salt is impure in many cases, and frequently mixed with other chemicals, can become unsalty. William Thompson, in his classic book The Land and the Book, which deals with the nation of Israel, tells about a merchant who rented several homes in which he stored salt. The merchant, however, forgot to cover the dirt floor before he put the salt down, and he simply unloaded the salt on the dirt, says Thompson. When he returned later, he discovered that his salt had lost its flavor from being next to the earth. The whole supply he threw into the street, where men walked on it.
So we know that the kind of salt they had at that time had the capacity to lose its saltiness. And that is to what our Lord is alluding, something that they would no doubt understand, that salt could lose its saltiness. I just want you to understand that.
In Luke 14:34, it says, “Salt is good. But if the salt have lost its savor, with what shall it be seasoned? It’s neither fit for the land, nor for the dung hill, but men throw it out.” So it’s the same statement there in Luke.
Now listen, we don’t need to argue – and it’s amazing how many commentators argue, that Jesus was wrong here, because salt can’t lose its saltiness. But if anybody knows about salt, He does – just like He knows about everything else. So we just find another explanation, as I’ve just given to you, which is very simple. But what He’s saying here is not that you lose your salvation. He’s not saying, “Now if you’re not careful, you’re going to lose your saltiness.” No. What He’s saying here is you lose your influence, right?
And if sin enters a Christian’s life, he can lose his influence. Sin is in your life, you have no influence. You can’t retard the corruption of the world, you’re in it. You can’t be purity against an impure background, you’re impurity too. You can’t be stinging in the wounds of other people’s sin, because you’ve got your own. You’re not going to create a thirst in somebody for God, because there’s nothing there to make them thirsty for what you’ve got; you’re just like them in behavior.
So the point here is not that you lose your salvation, but like 1 Corinthians 9:27, you become a castaway; you forfeit your influence; you lose your impact. A Christian loses his saltiness, it’s a sad situation. You can lose it. You just be sinful at work and you’ll lose your reputation. You be sinful at school, listen to the things people say that aren’t right, go along with the dirty talk or whatever, be involved in the things they do that you know aren’t right, and you’ll lose your saltiness. You’ll make no contribution to retard their corruption. You’ll make no pure statement against an impure background. You’ll create no thirst in anyone for God. You see, the point is, God needs your influence; and you are to be salt; and to be salt, you’ve got to stay away from that which corrupts you.
You know, they say that perfectly pure salt never loses its flavor. I like that. Want to know something? None of us is perfectly pure salt. We won’t be till we get to glory, right? As long as we’re in this life, we’re going to have impurities, and the potential of losing our saltiness is always there. God help us to so live the kind of life that will influence the world.
Let’s talk about light for a minute. He says a light, it’s something set on a hill, it’s something put on a lampstand, and it gives light to everybody in the house. You certainly don’t light a lamp and stick it under a peck – it’s literally a measure, about a peck-shaped basket. You don’t stick it under a basket. You don’t take a lamp and put it under a basket, that’s absolutely absurd.
The little lamps they used – I don’t know if you’ve seen them, those little terracotta lamps. They have a spout on one end, and a little handle on the other end, and a little floating wick in the middle, and they just fill them up with oil, and they just burn. They’re about three to four inches wide, two inches high, six inches long, you know. And they would leave them to light all night.
In fact, in Proverbs 31, the lady who gets up and lets her lamp not go out by night is probably the kind of lady who makes sure there is always a lamp in the house, so that anyone who needs to find his way around can. She has enough oil to make sure that’s done, and she’s conscientious enough to get up in the middle of the night and relight that little lamp so there’ll always be a light in the house.
Jesus is saying, “How foolish it would be to get your lamp trimmed, get the wick clipped, get it down there, fill it up with oil, and stick a thing on top of it so nobody could see it.” It would be silly.
Listen, Christians, you know what is amazing? Some of us have got within us the treasure in earthen vessels, the gospel of Jesus Christ, only nobody knows. You know, somebody said, “Most Christians are like an Arctic river, frozen over at the mouth.” I don’t know if that’s totally true, but there are a lot of us who haven’t shared Jesus Christ with anyone in a year, five years, ten or fifteen. We’ve got a light all right, but we’ve just got a modios over it, a peck basket. Listen, if you’re going to light, you’ve got to get your light where people can see it.
And it’s kind of interesting to look at verse 15 and see that it says, “Neither do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a lampstand, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” And some feel that is a reference to Israel, that specifically refers to them. And then the statement “all that enter in” would refer to the Gentiles. But I don’t know that we can push that too far. But the point is, whoever it is, whether it’s Israel, or the Gentiles, or whoever it is, we want to make sure that the light is lit and visible. That’s what Jesus is saying.
And, you know, to the people He was saying it to, He was really calling for something new. He was saying, “You know, you’re a part of a religious system that’s fouled up. And if you live according to kingdom character in the Beatitudes, then you’ve got to be different, and you’ve got to be light so that they can all see it. And that isn’t easy, because they’re not going to like what they see.”
It’s always the fear of persecution that makes us hesitant; we’re always a little afraid. And so after the Beatitude of “Blessed are the persecuted,” He has to reinforce the fact that “Don’t you put your light under a bushel; you put it there where everybody can see it, so that the whole world will know the truth of God.”
Verse 16 personalizes it. “Let your light so shine, so shine before men, that they will see your good works.” Stop right there. Let it shine, people, that’s all He’s saying. It’s a simple message tonight. Let your good deeds, agathos, good in quality. This is the quality of your deeds. Or, rather, this is kalos, I’m sorry. Agathos means good in quality. But kalos used here means good in terms of beauty. It’s the manifest beauty; not just that they’re good in and of themselves, but they have a beauty about them, an attractiveness, they are winsome; and that’s the word he uses. In other words, “Let men see your winsomeness. Let them see your beauty. Let them see your attractiveness, your quality.” It isn’t just the good deed itself, it’s the beauty that it manifests.
I just want to make a little footnote. The beginning of verse 16 says, “Let your light shine.” You don’t have to trump it up. You don’t have to light it. You don’t have to crank it up. You don’t have to worry about getting it started; all you’ve got to do is let it go. You can’t stop the light, and you can’t light the light, you can just stick a bushel on it.
The light is there, right? If Christ lives in you, He’s the light. And you can’t change that. Remember that little song, “There’s nobody who can blow it out.” Now that’s right; there isn’t anybody who’s going to blow it out, because the light is there.
But you can put a bushel basket on top of it so nobody will ever know. It may be the basket of fear, or wanting to be acceptable, or not wanting to offend, not wanting to make waves, or whatever. But whatever it is, it ought to get off of there. You don’t have to light it, and you can’t put it out, you’ve just got to let it shine by the way you live and the things you say.
And let it shine before men, in the presence of those who would hate you, and kill you, and reject you, and deny you. Let it shine, and let them see the beauty of your works. You know, when you hide your testimony, you’re not doing anything but preventing somebody from seeing the beauty of God Himself. When you don’t testify, you’re just withholding from someone that which they desperately need to see if they’re ever to come to God.
Well, what do we see then? The presupposition our Lord gives: the decay and darkness of the world. The plan that He gives: the dominion of the disciples, the dominion of the Christians. The problem that He talks about: the danger of failure. Oh, listen, we can hide that light and we can lose that saltiness; and if we do, we’re losing our hands, and all of a sudden we’re going to go through that field and not going to find anybody that’s lost.
Finally, we’ve seen the presupposition, and the plan, and the problem, and now the purpose. If the presupposition is the decay of the world, and the plan is the dominion of the Christians, and the problem is the danger of failure, then the purpose is the dignity of God, the dignity of God, and it’s at the end of verse 16; and I don’t need to say much about it, because I’ve preached on it so many, many times.
The reason for all of this, people, there’s one single reason that over arches the whole universe. There’s one single reason why you should be salt that is salty and light that is manifest, and it is this: that you might glorify your Father who is in heaven. Do you see? And if you don’t do it, then you are more concerned with your reputation than His glory. You see? That’s always the issue.
“Well, I don’t know whether I ought to stick my neck out; I might lose my job or reputation, or whatever, or whatever,” then you have just ascended the scale, and what you have and attain and get is more important than the glory of God. You see? “Not unto us, O Lord,” – said the psalmist – “not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory,” right?
Can you lose yourself? Can you be salt that is salty? Can you be light that is lit and manifest? You can if you only care about the glory of God. But if you let your own personality, and popularity, and your own prestige, and your own reputation get in the way, then the glory of God is dragged down, your flag goes up, and you say, “I reign. I’ll do what appeals to me.”
“Glorify your Father who is in Heaven.” Notice that He uses the word “Father,” I think because He wants to emphasize the beautiful tenderness and intimacy of God. And yet He says, “In Heaven,” and there, He speaks of the majesty. On the one hand, God is a tender, loving Father. On the other hand, He is a majestic, sovereign God in Heaven. And so He says we are to glorify God. That is good news. That is the reason we live; there is no other reason, but to glorify God. That’s all.
Dr. Robert Murray M’Cheyne was one of the saints in the last century. His face, they used to say, was sometimes lit up with a hallowed expression, so that people who came to see him fell on their knees to accept Jesus Christ when they saw his face. And it says others were so attracted to the indescribable beauty of holiness manifested on his countenance that Jesus became, to them, irresistible. Isn’t that fantastic? Influence.
It is said of Fenelon, the great Christian of ages past, his communion with God was such that his face shown. Lord Peterborough, a skeptic, was once compelled to spend a night with him in an inn. In the morning, he hurried away saying, “If I spend another night with that man, I’ll be a Christian in spite of myself.” Fenelon’s manner, his voice, and his face reflected so perfectly the glory of Christ, that he was irresistibly attractive to even the worldliest and vilest of humanity.”
What about you? Are you the kind of salt that retards the corruption and the kind of light that attracts in the beauty of holiness, as the shining of your goodness and beauty, the power of God released in you, touches the people around you? And you never mitigate it, you never cover it, you let it shine, so that God can be glorified?
Salt and light, Father, a simple message. It needed to be, because this was just part of the first sermon You gave. They needed to hear the basics, and so do we, 2,000 years later, we who know the Bible so well; and we just need to hear again the same old story. There’s a wheat field out there, and the wheat is too tall for the people who are lost to see the Father’s house. And we’ve got to join our hands, and go from one end of the field to the other before it’s too late, and we come to one whom the cold of the night has taken to a Christless grave. God, help us to join hands before its too late for some.
We know even today, some passed into eternity. Tomorrow, some more will pass to eternity. You’ve told us to take the gospel to every creature. Help us to be willing to influence the world like Helen Ewing did, and wherever we walk, may we leave Christ behind. Help us to change conversations, so that when we show up, they say, “Shh, he’s coming,” or, “She’s coming.” If we were to die tomorrow, could it be said that we made a difference in the world?
O Lord God, may we be salt that is salty and light that is manifest. May we be a city set on a hill. May we let our lights so shine that men may see our good works, and glorify the Father in Heaven. Deliver us from the sins that would render us tasteless and useless, but to be thrown on the road and walked on. Deliver us from the fear, and the pride, and the exaltation of self that make us put our light under a bushel. Help us to live the way that You want us to live, make a difference in the world. We expect the world won’t like it. But even though there may be a reaction against it, there’s also going to be some who are coming to Jesus Christ through our life. May we be useful in the world’s wheat field, to find those that are lost.
We think of our Lord Jesus, as He looked over the city of Jerusalem and wept and said, “You will not come to Me that you might have life.” Father, help us not to cause even more tears, because we too have been unfaithful. May we so live to fulfill this marvelous command of our Lord Jesus Christ. We who have kingdom character, may we let it influence the world in which we live. Make us different, Lord, that the world may be different because we are.
While your heads are bowed for just a minute – I’m going to let you go in a moment – let me just say this. I think God’s going to call on us in days ahead to stand up and be counted for His cause. I think we had a little taste of it just in recent days; that’s nothing. I think of Hebrews 12, “We have not yet suffered unto blood.” We certainly haven’t been martyred yet. I don’t know what the future has for us, but I just think we need to come to grips with our lives right now.
Where are you investing your time? Where are you investing your life? Where are you investing your money? Where are you placing these things? You only have this one life, that’s all; you’ve got one shot. You’ve claimed Christ, you love Christ. Are you salt that is salty? Are you light that is manifest?
Oh, let’s make a difference in the world; the world really needs us. We’re the only salt and light. Let’s be different; let’s make a difference. Will you covenant in your heart with me before God that that’s what you want to do?
Father, we thank You tonight for how, again, in the simplicity and beauty of Your Word, You’ve penetrated our hearts. Make us different. We know there’s a price to pay; that’s okay. You payed the supreme price for us. You bore the blows that should have been borne by us. Surely we can take the blows that the world means for You.
Help us to be faithful. And may this community of believers right here make a difference in the world, not for our sake; God, not for the sake of Grace Church, John MacArthur, or any individual, but for the glory of God the Father who’s in Heaven. His glory alone we seek, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
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