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2006-05-14_Who You Are_Matthew 5.13-16

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Who You Are

Matthew 5:13-16   |   Shaun LePage   |   May 14, 2006

I. Introduction

A.   Children’s Sermon

1.     Impromptu “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” (Start with kids then insist that adults join in.)

2.     Question: What does it mean to “let your light shine”? [Let the kids answer]

3.     Answer: Be different! Light is very different than darkness. Followers of Jesus are supposed to be very different than those who don’t know Jesus. When everyone else is being selfish—you be _______. When everyone else is being grumpy—you choose to be ________. When everyone else is being unkind—you be ______. When everyone else is telling lies—you tell ______. When everyone else is talking about video games or saying bad things about other people or telling you how great they are—you tell them about Jesus. About how great He is!

4.     Pray for and dismiss kids to Sunday School. Before you leave, tell your Moms and Grandmas “Happy Mother’s Day!” (On 3!)

B.    A church produced a Christmas play a few years ago. A young boy had only one line. He was to stand and say, “I am the light of the world.” However, on the night of the production, he froze at the sight of so many people and forgot his line. His mother was seated on the front row and began mouthing his line for him. Following her cue, he said, “My Mother is the light of the world.”

C.   In a sense, that’s pretty good. Mother’s have a wonderful and unique role as light in the world. But, this is not going to be a Mother’s Day sermon. Because all of us are to be “the light of the world.”

D.   And the world needs light. “What’s exactly is wrong with the world?” Ask that question of a thousand people and you’ll get a thousand answers: The government. The school systems. The federal reserve. The oil companies. The lawyers. The doctors. The stock market. NAFTA. The teenagers. The old people. The white yuppies. The black gangs. The illegal aliens. The mainstream media. The Hollywood elite. The Republicans. The Democrats. The liberals. The conservatives. The Russians. The Japanese. The Chinese. The Germans. The French. The Canadians. The Muslims. The Jews. The Christians (especially the right-wing, fundamentalist, Bible-believing, evangelicals).

E.    The Bible answers that question for us. The theological answer is this: The world is hopelessly infected with sin and in the clutches of Satan. It is like a decaying carcass. It is like a dark room.

1.     2 Timothy 3:13: “But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”

2.     1 John 5:19: “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”

F.    Someone sat down beside Will Rogers once at a dinner, and in the course of the conversation asked the comedian: “What’s wrong with the world, anyway?” Rogers drawled in reply, “Well, I dunno, I guess its people.” Theologian G.K. Chesterton was asked the exact same question once and his reply seems—at first—to be very similar. But it is drastically different. The London newspaper, The Times, asked him to reply to the question, “What’s Wrong with the World?” He wrote this reply: “I am. Yours truly, G.K. Chesterton.”

G.   G.K. Chesterton answered well because Jesus told us that in one sense, the solution is me. It’s you. It’s those whom God has showered with mercy showing mercy to the world. It’s those for whom God has had compassion, having compassion for the world. It’s those whom God has served, serving the world. It’s those whom God has given light, letting their lights shine in this very dark world.

H.   CPS: We are in the world, but we are different from the world.

II.   Body—Matthew 5:13-16 (recite from memory)

A.   The Setting: A Dying and Dark World

1.     “Earth and world”. Isn’t it interesting that in this very Jewish gospel, Jesus—early on—tells His disciples that they were to have influence in the whole earth, the whole world.

2.     But the implication here is that the earth needs salt. The world needs light. We’ll look at the meaning of “salt and light” in a moment, but don’t miss this point. The setting is a needy world. A world that is dying and dark.

3.     John 3:17,18—the words of Jesus—makes clear the condition of the world: “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Those who believe (i.e., trust), are rescued. Those who do not believe will be judged. It’s that simple. It’s black and white.

B.    The Solution: Salt and Light

1.     “You”—disciples of Jesus Christ. Remember all those beatitudes? Remember all those character traits we looked at in verses 3-12? That’s the “you”! The “you” is those Christians who live kingdom lives—who have a kingdom perspective on who God is and who they are and what is really important. The “you” is the poor in spirit—humble before God. The “you” is those who mourn—who hate their sin. The “you” is the gentle—the selfless. The “you” is those who hunger and thirst for righteousness—those who are passionately pursuing Jesus Christ. The “you” is the merciful—those who have compassion for others. The “you” is the pure in heart—authentic disciples, the real deal. The “you” is the peacemakers—those building bridges so that others might experience the true peace of God. The “you” is the persecuted—those who are so completely identified with Christ (thinking like Christ, talking like Christ, acting like Christ) that the world treats them like Christ—persecuted for the sake of righteousness. These same ones who are despised and persecuted by the world are the world’s only hope—in that they are ambassadors for the world’s only hope.

2.     “Are”—there’s no command here! Jesus didn’t say, “Be the salt of the earth,” but “you are the salt of the earth.” Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” The question—Christian—is not whether you are salt. You are salt and light. The question is will you act like it. The “command” is implicit. But what is meant by “salt and light”?

3.     “Salt”. “There have been a lot of suggestions for what Jesus meant by calling us “salt”:

a)    Salt is different. Its power, its influence comes from the fact that it is different. On bland food, it provides a different taste. Jesus said in Mark 9:50, “Salt is good…” Don’t give me popcorn without salt. I like hamburgers and French fries without salt, but with salt it tastes a whole lot better. By telling us we are salt, Jesus was telling us that by nature, we are different that the world around us.

b)    Salt creates thirst. It increases the body’s craving for water.

(i)   Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt…” Paul is talking about speaking in such a way that we make people thirsty for the truth!

(ii) There is a magnificent story in Marie Chapian’s book Of Whom The World Was  Not Worthy. The book told of the sufferings of the true church in Yugoslavia where so much wrong has been perpetrated by the politicized ecclesiastical hierarchy (state church). That which has gone on in the name of Christ for the enriching and empowering of corrupt church officials has been a terrible affront to decency. One day an evangelist by the name of Jakov arrived in a certain village. He commiserated with an elderly man named Cimmerman on the tragedies he had experienced and talked to him of the love of Christ. Cimmerman abruptly interrupted Jakov and told him that he wished to have nothing to do with Christianity. He reminded Jakov of the dreadful history of the church in his town, a history replete with plundering, exploiting, and indeed with killing innocent people. “My own nephew was killed by them, “he said and angrily rebuffed any effort on Jakov’s part to talk about Christ. “They wear those elaborate coats and caps and crosses,” he said, “signifying a heavenly commission, but their evil designs and lives I cannot ignore.” Jakov, looking for an occasion to get Cimmerman to change his line of thinking, said, “Cimmerman, can I ask you a question? Suppose I were to steal your coat, put it on, and break into a bank. Suppose further that the police sighted me running in the distance but could not catch up with me. One clue, however, put them onto your track; they recognized your coat. What would you say to them if they came to your house and accused you of breaking into the bank?” “I would deny it,” said Cimmerman. “‘Ah, but we saw your coat,’ they would say,” retorted Jakov. This analogy annoyed Cimmerman, who ordered Jakov to leave his home. Jakov continued to return to the village periodically just to befriend Cimmerman, encourage him, and share the love of Christ with him. Finally one day Cimmerman asked, “How does one become a Christian?” and Jakov taught him the simple steps of repentance for sin and of trust in the work of Jesus Christ and gently pointed him to the Shepherd of his soul. Cimmerman bent his knee on the soil with his head bowed and surrendered his life to Christ. As he rose to his feet, wiping his tears, he embraced Jakov and said, “Thank you for being in my life.” And then he pointed to the heavens and whispered, “You wear His coat very well.” (Can Man Live Without God, Ravi Zacharias, p.101-2)

(iii)    By saying that we are the salt of the earth, Jesus was telling us that our lives and our words should make people thirsty for what is true.

c)    Salt preserves. Salt was used in the ancient world to keep meat from decaying. If rubbed in correctly, salt could preserve meat for several days. Some day, the church—the salt of the earth—will be taken out of the world in the rapture. Until that time, we are to have a preserving influence in the world around us. A righteous influence.

(i)   Dennis Prager debated an atheist several years ago and the subject turned to effect of the Bible on society. The atheist, of course, claimed the Bible had had a negative effect on society, but Prager disagreed. He asked his opponent, “If you were in South Central Los Angeles at 2 a.m. and your car broke down and you suddenly saw a dozen, big, burly men coming down the street toward you, would it or would it not give you comfort to know that they had just come from a Bible study?”

(ii) Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones provides this picture of how Christians can have a preserving influence on society: “For instance, a number of people may be talking together in a rather unworthy manner. Suddenly a Christian enters into the company, and immediately his presence has an effect. He does not say a word, but people begin to modify their language. He is already acting as salt, he is already controlling the tendency to putrefaction and pollution. Just by being a Christian man, because of his life and character…he is already controlling that evil that was manifesting itself, and he does so in every sphere and in every situation. He can do this, not only in a private capacity in his home, his workshop or office, or wherever he may happen to be, but also as a citizen in the country in which he lives.” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 1:155).

(iii)    “The religion of Jesus Christ has done more to elevate moral standards than any other force in history. Had Jesus never come, it’s unlikely the Ten Commandments would be known beyond the Jews. Had Jesus never come, many of us—those who are of Anglo-Saxon stock—might still be drinking out of human skulls as they used to. Had Jesus never come, the Scandinavians might still be out plundering and terrorizing their neighbors as their ancestors, the Vikings, used to, until the gospel of Christ took hold. Had Jesus never come, many of the formerly cannibalistic tribes of Africa, Asia, or the Americas would no doubt still be gorging on human flesh. But Jesus did come, and He elevated morality and life on earth to a much higher level than ever before. As many in the West continue to reject Him and His standards of right and wrong, we seem to be regressing to the vile and unspeakable sins that besmirched the ancient pagan world.” (What If Jesus Had Never Been Born, Kennedy, Newcombe, pgs. 170-1).

d)    By calling us “salt” Jesus was telling us to influence the world around us by living the righteousness of Christ.

4.     “Light

a)    Light is Jesus Christ—the truth and holiness and purity of Jesus Christ.

(i)   John 1:1-9

(ii)  In John 9:5, Jesus said, “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.”

b)     Those who believe in Christ are brought out of darkness. In John 12:46, Jesus said, “I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.”

c)    These who have believed then become “Light in the Lord”—reflectors of the “True Light”. Ephesians 5:8 says, “…You were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light…”

d)    We are light! Our lives and our words will reflect the righteousness and truth of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote in Philippians 2:15, “…Prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world…”

e)    We’ll come back to “light” in a minute.

C.   The Irony: Tasteless and Hidden

1.     Jesus uses two ironic statements to make a point.

a)    Unsalty salt. The word for “tasteless” here is the same root word elsewhere translated “foolish”. It’s a foolish idea! Salt is salt and if it isn’t, it is “good for nothing”!

b)    Hidden light. It’s just as foolish to try to hide a city on a hill or to light a candle and cover it up with a basket—foolish!

2.     What’s the point?

a)    Salt has a purpose. We are “salty” when we are different. When we create a thirst for truth in people. When we have a preserving influence in society. When we restrain evil and impact the world through Biblical moral standards. It is foolish for those who have been made righteous by God to either retreat—attempting to do nothing about the evil around us—or blend—letting ourselves get contaminated by the evil around us. Living in such foolish ways means we “are no longer good for anything”—we’re good for nothing!

b)    Light has a purpose. It’s for dispelling darkness. It’s foolish for those who have been made “light in the Lord” to hide—not live out the righteousness of Christ or speak the truth about Christ. It’s foolish! We’re “no longer good for anything”. We’re not fulfilling our purpose.

c)    All indicators point to the fact that the Church in America is not very salty and not very shiny. We can’t do anything about that. But we can do something about ourselves. We can do something about Community Bible Church and Lawrence, Kansas. Just a little bit of salt can go a long way. Just a little bit of light can chase away the darkness. That brings us to The Call.

D.   The Call: Be Who You Are

1.     “Let your light shine”. This is the only true command here, though the command to act like salt is implied. You are salt. You are light—be who you are! Don’t lose your saltiness—in other words, be righteous in an unrighteous world. Don’t hide your light—in other words, speak up! Share the truth of Christ with all who are in the house (i.e., the world).

2.     “In such a way that they may see your good works”. Shining is not just doing good works. It must include speaking! It must include evangelism—declaring the good news of Jesus Christ. Why? Because no one is ever persecuted for doing “good works”. Jesus made it clear in various passages, including verses 10-12 above, that His disciples would be persecuted. But the world applauds those who do “good works.” What they persecute is those who do “good works” in Jesus’ name, declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ. [ Promote You Can Tell It! Seminar.]

3.     “And glorify your Father in heaven.” Here’s the climax of the passage. Our shining and working should point to the Father. God’s glory is what is most important! Our purpose in being “salt and light” is to point to Him. To bring Him glory. Some will respond to our “salt and light” by becoming God-glorifiers also. Some will persecute us. Either way, God will be glorified.

III. Closing

A.   The earth—the people on this planet—are dying. The world—the people of this world—are in darkness. We were not created in Christ Jesus to complain about the status quo. To shake our heads in disgust at the sin of the world. To retreat to a cave in the desert. You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. If I am not being salty, I am good for nothing. If I am not letting my light shine, I am a basket case. If you are not being salty, not letting your light shine, you are fulfilling your purpose for being on the planet. “What’s wrong with the world?” If we’re not “salt and light,” the answer is: “I am.”

B.    Choose right now. Before you walk out this building. Will you be different? Will you love righteousness and live righteously? Will you be who you are.

C.   Will the ushers please pass out the yellow sheets. I’m going to ask each one of you to look at the various responses I’ve typed up here. Perhaps one of these describes you this morning. Perhaps you need to turn the paper over and write your own. I’m going to give you a few minutes to prayerfully read these and consider where you are today. Ask God to reveal the condition of your heart this morning and lead you to the most God-honoring, kingdom-minded response. If you want me or one of the elders to pray for you or help you sort through something in your life, we will be up here in front at your service. I’m going to give you several minutes, and then we’ll pray together.

Salt and Light Responses

1.     Lord Jesus, I have never put my eternal destiny into Your hands. I’ve heard the name “Jesus” all my life and I accept as true that You died on the cross for my sins and rose from the dead to give me eternal life. But, I have never sincerely trusted You with my eternal destiny. I now recognize my complete inability to do anything about my sin condition and know that I need You. This day I trust You and You alone to save me from the eternal consequences of sin.

2.     Lord Jesus, I am convinced that I am genuinely trusting You and You alone for eternal life, but today I am not being salt and light. I admit that I am basically unmoved by Your words in Matthew 5 that tell me what You expect of Your disciples. So, I ask that You would work in my heart and give me the desire to be all that You desire me to be for the glory of my Father in heaven.

3.     Lord Jesus, I am convinced that I am genuinely trusting You and You alone for eternal life, and I am sad to say that I have been disobedient. I have not had compassion for the decaying and dark world around me. I have not been salty. I have not shined for You. I repent of this sin today and ask that You would show me how I can change and how I can influence the world around me for the glory of my Father in heaven.

4.     Lord Jesus, I am convinced that I am genuinely trusting You and You alone for eternal life, and though I admit that I fall short of where You want me to be, I do have compassion for the world around me. I have been trying to be salty. I have been trying to shine for You. Please give me a stronger compassion for the world around me. Please give me the wisdom to know how I can be everything You desire me to be for the glory of my Father in heaven.

D.   Pray and invite others to pray for Community Bible Church.

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