Salt and Light

Matthew 5:13-16

You are the Salt of the Earth.

Salt serves very clear purposes. To flavor what needs flavoring, and to preserve what needs preserving. Without these capabilities, salt is just another rock.

What does Jesus mean by seasoning? Or the taste? In the culinary world, salt is unique. It’s used to accent flavor in a dish.  I love to grill. I particularly like to grill steak. I don’t add salt to a steak before I cook it so that I can enjoy the taste of salt. I like to sprinkle a thin layer of coarse salt and fresh pepper on top of a steak so that salt will draw out the flavor of the meat.

After Jesus tells these crowds that all who have been oppressed, all who are mourning, all who are merciful, all who are hungry, and so on that they are blessed, he tells them that they are the flavor of the world they live in.

This sounds really strange doesn’t it? Wouldn’t the people who are self-made, who are “successfuL”, who are charismatic and adorned with skill and ability be the ones who move this whole thing forward? Jesus is saying no, not only are those of you who are struggling the salt of the earth, you’re blessed (or happy) according to the first ten verses of this chapter

But according to who? According to God. What the people listening to Jesus were used to hearing from the leaders of the day was that they were less valuable because they were “peasants” or commoners. Because they had less knowledge and no power. But here, Jesus is giving all who were listening insight into the reality that God has not ordained that His people to sit under a social hierarchy and let the “leadership” do all the work of the kingdom. 

What Jesus is speaking of is that in this world, there are two kinds of people. People who are dead in their trespasses and sins, and those that have been made alive together with him. Those that have been made alive together with him have been set free from the grey, bland, tasteless, darkness of their trespasses and now have the opportunity to live with joy and tastefulness. A richness of outward expression that makes everywhere we go feel like God has been there.

Colossians 4:6

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

Ezekiel 43 “You shall sprinkle salt on them and offer them up as a burnt offering”.

Salt makes things taste good. It’s uplifting to the palate. It builds flavor.

So Jesus is saying, “This is how you are to interact with people around you.. Even in the midst of your temporary struggle, your suffering, your need, God has given you a mission, a purpose. To glorify Him by being what takes this sinful, dead, gray, bland world and adds layers of taste, color, and joy.

It’s an interesting thing to observe when you are in a group of Christians that have truly taken hold of what Jesus is saying here. When you listen to their speech, they have an undistorted view of what they are supposed to be doing in their lives because of who they are in Christ. You leave feeling uplifted, motivated, encouraged, even challenged to grow in your relationship with God. This is evidence of revived souls that are sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s conviction and leadership.

You are the light of the world.

Then Jesus takes his illustration a step further. Not only has God placed us here to be that layer of richness that brings joy to the world around us, the joy that is to come from us is to light the darkness. What darkness? John 1 speaks of it. It’s the opposite of life. It’s death.

Here’s the problem for many with all of this. When God regenerates you and me from our sin, he gives us a new identity. Scripture tells us that this identity has certain qualities that God has blessed us with that are governing qualities, and when we go after sin, when we pursue the flesh, rather than the spirit. We act outside of this new identity, and in doing so, we find out very quickly that we experience a sense of guilt, shame, we hate ourselves for what we are doing, and in turn, if we don’t repent, we try to make up our own identity that’s muddied by little pieces of God and big chunks of the world. 

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Jesus is speaking directly to this issue when he says “no one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket.” And “a city on a hill cannot be hidden.”What I just described is exactly why some haven’t seen an ounce of growth in your knowledge of, or love for God in years. Some don’t have any idea what they’re doing with their  life as a Christian. They’ve chosen to simply isolate themselves and try to do everything besides submit to God’s will. They are  in the middle of the worst case of mission creep they’ve ever experienced. For some, it’s so bad they don’t even know how to look another person in the eye and tell them they love them. What’s worse is that they don’t even know how to worship with a full heart anymore.

 That’s not what God wants for you. He wants you to be tender hearted, because he wants to use you for His glory. But I’ll warn you! He loves you. He loves you enough to let you do what you’re going to do, even if it means letting you get to rock bottom before you realize you need him.

What does all this have to do with being salt and light? It has everything to do with being salt and light. The church IS salt and it IS light in this dark world, and my friend, if you are in Jesus Christ you will not get away from it and be disobedient, you are going to experience some of the worst spiritual turbulence you have ever felt. You will feel completely alone while it happens because you chose to put a basket over the lamp. 

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