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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
Preached At:Lynwood United Reformed Church
 Lynwood, IL
Title:Redeeming a Dead and Dark World
Text:Matthew 5:13-16 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

John 17: 6-19;

Text: Matt. 5. 13-16
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ, every Palm Sunday we celebrate the occasion in which Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey. Our Bibles refer to this event as the Triumphal Entry, because thousands of people who had gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover welcomed Christ's entrance to the city, waving palm braches of victory.

Why were they directing such tribute to Jesus? Because many of the people believed that Jesus really was the promised Messiah. His raising of Lazarus from the dead, after Lazarus had been entombed for a full 4 days, seemed to have been the sign which won people over.

Also, Christ's appearance was in fulfillment of Zechariah 9.9, Your king will come to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey. So when the people saw Him coming, they swarmed out of the city and shouted, Hosanna (which means save now!), Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord.

Yes, Jesus welcomed the praises of the people--as misdirected and misguided as those praises were. But what was lost to the crowd was that Jesus was not the type of King they anticipated. The salvation which Jesus came to provide, was not exactly what the people had in mind. Likewise, the Kingdom which Christ came to establish was not what they expected either.

For Christ came to Jerusalem not to gain glory for himself by being exalted to an earthly throne in some lush palace; rather, he came to gain glory for himself by being lifted high on a cross at a place called Golgatha. It was from that cross, that Israel's King would provide salvation; it was from there, that he would secure His Kingdom; it was from there, by way of His cruel suffering and death, that He would bring glory to Himself.

What does all this have to do with the salt and light of Matthew 5? Much in every way. In the first place, it reminds us that Jesus expects His church to live in the world just a He did--to be in this world, but not of his world. But secondly, we are reminded that we have been placed in this world to have a positive effect, a powerful influence and impact on this world.

No one man had a greater influence on this world than Jesus Christ Himself--that was because He was God's own Son! But now, just as Jesus prayed, the Spirit of God's own Son lives in us, and we in Him. And as His own disciples and believers, the church is called to identify and embrace her role and calling in this world.

Just as Jesus lived to testify to the glory and truth of His Father, so, too, does the church. That is what being salt and light are all about. So we consider God's Word together, as

Christ Calls Believers to be a Redeeming Influence in this Lost World. Notice,

1) The World's Desperate Problem;
2) The Church's Redeeming Role;

1. The World's Desperate Problem

Congregation, when Jesus says that we Christians are salt and light, he is not only saying something about us. He is also saying something about the condition of the world in which we live. We want to focus on that first.

First, in regards to salt, Jesus can be implying one of two things (possibly even both). Salt was commonly used in Bible times, just as it is today, to flavor and season food-making it more palatable and appetizing. Which is to say that to God, the world is tasteless, it is bland, it is unappetizing, wholly and entirely without flavor. Have you ever eaten food like that before?

Eating bland food gives us no pleasure, no enjoyment, no delight or satisfaction in the meal. Imagine eating dinner this afternoon and our food has no taste. We can't really enjoy the meal, then. It's like eating when we're sick, when nothing tastes right. It just isn't the same.

That's the point Jesus is making about salt. Salt provides flavor, making meals palatable and pleasurable. This analogy to salt makes sense, because people who do not believe in God, live their lives without giving God any pleasure or delight. Their lives fail to give God glory or honor or praise. Their lives are anything but palatable and flavorful and satisfying to the Lord.

But salt has a second major purpose. Salt was also used as a preservative for meat, to keep it from rotting and decaying. We're not as familiar with this attribute of salt today, because we have freezers to keep our meat fresh. But in Jesus' day, when fish were caught and when meat was freshly butchered, they would always pack that meat in salt, to keep it fresh. The salt would draw out the excess moisture, thus keeping the meat from spoiling.

So, if this latter use of salt was intended by Jesus, then He was saying that the world was dead, and subject to decay, corruption, to rotting and spoiling. So either way, whether Jesus was emphasizing the use of salt as a flavoring influence or as a preserving power, the basic idea is the same. Without the presence of salt, the earth is an awful place to be.

Jesus also mentions that the church is the light of the world. The purpose of light is rather straightforward. Light enables us to see our way in an otherwise dark place. If we lived in Jesus' day, we would light a torch or a candle for the purpose of providing light in a dark place. For us, we merely flick a switch, or turn on a flash light, and instantly there is light.

So in this regard, Jesus was implying that the world around us is immersed in darkness. The people of this world stumble about blindly in the darkness. They are hopelessly lost, void of any real direction. We even sing about the sad condition of the world in one of our hymns, saying how the world is benighted. It is stooped in ignorance, overwhelmed by darkness.

Now beloved, for you and me, we understand and agree with these findings? Yet, as we know, there are plenty of people in our world who are just blind enough, just ignorant enough to deny these truths, and believe that man really is an enlightened creature. Sociologists would have us believe that man is an ever evolving, ever changing, ever improving species, and that despite our ugly episodes and occasional set backs, we're still ascending the evolutionary scale.

And as far as salt is concerned, people are quick to point out that even among those who are not "practicing Christians", there are millions who still do good in this world, millions of people who make personal sacrifices for others, there are many who sacrifice their own lives for others, many who dedicate their lives to spreading love and kindness and goodwill in their neighborhood, trying hard to make their corner of the world a little brighter, a little saltier.

How do we respond to that? We respond with what God's Word teaches us about the pervasive power, the lethal influence of sin in people's lives. Consider what Jesus Himself says in John 3. 19-20, This is the verdict, Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

In Romans 1: 21, it says that although sinful man knows God, he refuses to glorify Him as God, or give thanks to Him. Instead, his thinking is futile and his foolish heart is darkened. Going just a bit further in Romans, to chapter 3, we find the well known passage where the Holy Spirit chronicles the affects of sin on our entire being. From head to toe, sinful man is full of disease and death and decay. He is corrupt. Or as it says very directly in chapter 5:12, When sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, we all died, because we all sinned.

That is why Jesus tells Nicodemus that in order to be saved, You must be born again. It's because man's condition is beyond critical. Man is more than a little sick and diseased. No matter how kind, and loving, and thoughtful and good hearted a man (our neighbor) might be, if they are of the world, they are dead in their sin, lost and blind. If they are of this world, then there is nothing they can do to make their lives more savory to God. There is nothing they can do to escape the darkness of their ways.

So, this is the commentary which Jesus provides about the world in which we live, about the world in which He Himself lived. Now, understand, Jesus was not saying this to be pessimistic. He was actually being realistic. And Jesus was not saying this to be condescending or judgmental about the world. Rather, he has saying this with the best interest of the world in mind and at heart! After all, Jesus Christ Himself was the 'Light of the world', who came into the world so that 'those living in darkness could see the great Light'?

And, was not Jesus Christ also the salt of the earth, sent by God to accomplish the work of salvation, providing satisfaction for sins, so that the Father might call unto Himself a remnant, a multitude without number from every tongue, tribe, and nation in the world? By the redeeming and sanctifying work of Jesus Christ, men's lives are made palatable and pleasing to God.

So beloved, when we consider the sad and lost estate of this world, we must not do so with hatred, or with scorn, or with gleeful derision or disdain for people in the world-sort of a "Devil may take them" attitude. Jesus didn't think that way, and He doesn't want us to either.

The people in the world who live in unbelief are sinners just like us, in desperate need of grace. They are sinners walking in darkness who need the light of Christ to shine them on them, to illumine their foolish hearts and darkened minds. They are sinners who need the salt of Christ righteousness to arrest the spoil and decay within them, to purify their hearts, so that their thoughts, words, and actions are palatable and pleasing to God.

Beloved, we need to really need to work harder on this score, because it's so very easy for us to turn our backs on this world. When we hear of all the shooting, the maiming, the killing, the stealing, the rape, the molesting that goes on, we want to stop caring, and pray that the Lord would come and dole out His punishment upon the sinners and reward the righteous.

Yet, in His High Priestly prayer, Jesus said, My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. Jesus has sent His Church into this world for a purpose, and so long as He tarries, so long as it is day, that purpose remains, our calling persists. What is that calling? That is what we consider next in connection with our text: The Churches Redeeming Role

2) The Church's Redeeming Role

Congregation, let's take a moment to look at our passage, and consider the context. Verses 3-16 come right on the heels of the Beatitudes, and this provides us with a very valuable perspective. The placement of these verses teach us that the godly virtues which Jesus spoke about in vv. 3-12 are not designed to be practiced in isolation from the rest of the world.

The virtues, the disciplines of the Christian life (like humility, and meekness, and mercy, and making peace), they are not only meant to be exercised here in the fellowship of believers, in the Christian community, but they are designed to be put into practice, out there-amidst unbelievers in the world.

So you see, when Jesus speaks about His church, His own children living as salt of the earth and light of the world, He's not presenting us with a whole new teaching, with a whole new way of life. Rather, He's merely basing these words upon what He has just said. Jesus has already provided us with everything we need to know to be a powerful influence in the world.

So you see, when Jesus speaks about His church, His own children living as salt of the earth and light of the world, He's not presenting us with a whole new teaching, with a whole new way of life. Rather, He's merely basing these words upon what He has just said. Jesus has already provided us with everything we need to know to be a powerful influence in the world.

By showing meekness, we communicate to the world that we Christians are not proud, we are not puffed-up and 'holier than thou'. Rather, we are gentle and mild, patient and trusting. We are willing to sacrifice for others, we are willing to serve in whatever way we can, we are calm when inconvenienced and treated unfairly. Seeing that, redeems the dead and dark world.

Likewise, when we truly hunger and thirst after righteousness, and when we're merciful, and pure of heart, we show by our righteous deeds, we show by our sanctified living, by our pure speech, by our kind deeds of love and mercy, that we love the Lord, and that our "religion" is real-that the God we serve is the One Only True God, and He holds the central place in my heart, and in my home. Seeing that redeems the dead and dark world.

And when we live as peacemakers in this tumultuous world, when we willingly and gladly suffer the mockery of fools, when we turn our other cheek to one who wrongs us, when we refuse to let anger and hatred an malice and envy well up within us, when we answer criticism with a gentle response, when we endure persecution with rejoicing and gladness, that to redeems a dead and dark world.

In essence, beloved, Christ Jesus has called us to live out only what He, by His Word and Spirit, have worked into us. When Jesus calls for His church to be salt and light in this world, He is not asking us to do anything more than what He has expected from the very beginning. To be faithful. To walk before Him in obedience. To be unashamed and unafraid, to live for Christ in a world that rejects the Light, and spits out the Salt.

So no, this is nothing new. Yet, it needs to be said, and we need to hear it again and again and again. Why is that? Because, as I said only moments ago, as Christ's church, we have a tendency to forget our calling in this world. We have a tendency to be useless to God.

That's exactly what Jesus is warning us against, when he says about salt: If the salt loses it's saltiness, can it be made salty again? And when he says about light, 'Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. In both cases, Jesus is warning the church against being an ineffective and useless influence in the world, and for His kingdom, and for His name's glory!

Because of its proximity to the Dead Sea (the Salt Sea), the entire region of Israel was rich with salt deposits. Chunks of salt (like rocks) would literally wash up on the shore of the Dead Sea, and these chunks could be collected. But before that salt was good for use, the outside layers had to be shaved away. That's because the chemicals and elements surrounding the salt blocks made the outer layers tasteless, and therefore useless.

That's what Jesus means. If the salt loses its saltiness, if it is defiled by the surrounding elements, it loses its power and purpose to season, to flavor, to influence, to preserve. It is of no value at all. Now apply that imagery to a Christian living in this world. If we Christians lose our saltiness, if we allow ourselves to become defiled, weighed down, bogged down by sin and evil, caught up in temptation, swallowed by lust and desire, then we have lost our power of influence.

When a Christian husband defiles his marriage, when he treats his wife with contempt, or when he is unfaithful to her, he loses his power of influence in a world where adultery and infidelity run rampant. We lose our saltiness. When at work, or on the highway, or on the athletic field, or at the grocery store, or on the phone, we engage with an unbeliever in a war of unsanctified words, or in a show of uncontrolled anger and rage, we lose our power of influence.

As salt, we not only lose our power to influence others in the world, but when we defile ourselves with sin, our behavior is unpalatable and unpleasant in the face of the Lord as well. And if we continue to abide in our sin, if, as salt we continue to lose our saltiness, the Lord will treat us like the lukewarm church in revelation, and He will spew us out of His mouth!

And as far as being light is concerned, I think even the little children here understand that analogy. Light, by its very nature, is designed to shine, it's made to be seen. So, says Jesus, His Church in this world is to be a light set high upon a hill-visible to all, lighting the way for all to follow, shining the light of Jesus Christ for all to see-both far and near.

And, just like salt, being light requires that we live righteous lives before the Lord. As Paul writes in Ephesians 5. 8ff. in Christ, we are children of light, (for the fruit of light consists of all goodness, righteousness and truth). We are to have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said, 'Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.

Christ's light is within us, and it is designed to be seen by others! Not only by means of our righteous deeds, but also by our words of witness. When we are put into a position to say an edifying Word about Christ, or point the way to Christ, or to defend His Name, but fail to do so, we also are hiding the light under a bushel.

If we are fearful or reluctant or too timid to do a good deed, to shake a neighbor's hand and speak a good word, then we are not letting our light shine. Jesus said, let your light shine before men, so they may see your good deeds--our lives of holiness, our loving hearts, our positive attitudes, our kindly speech-that they might praise your Father in heaven.

In other words, by being salt and light, God is pleased to use us to bring the lost into a saving relationship with Him. God is pleased to use us to 'wake the dead' and to shine His light on a dark world, so that more and more lives may be seasoned by His love, made palatable and pleasing to the taste.

God is pleased to use us to make the light of Jesus Christ shine in men's hearts and minds and souls, piercing their darkness, chasing away the dark deeds of sin and evil. Beloved, this is why we are here. This is our role, our calling. So a long as we are in this world, let's be faithful to our Lord. Let's be the salt of the earth, the light of the world, for God's glory! Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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(c) Copyright 2004, Pastor Keith Davis

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