PULPIT TODAY SERMON
Robert D. Pace
What others say about us is important. The terms and labels attached to us impact us. When we are stereotyped, accurately or inaccurately, it can affect our behavior, determine how others treat us, and to a degree, form our future. The architects of cultural behavior, the media, and liberal “think-tanks” are aware of this. When it comes to shaping public opinion, the ruling class and the media industry understand exactly how to create a cognitive bias against an issue. They know how to incite fear and arouse prejudice toward those that threaten their agenda. When a demeaning image is ascribed to someone, it causes the public to think negatively about or reject that person. Think about some of the names and phrases that are used to denigrate a person:
“That person is a racist”
“Christians are homophobes”
“She is a rightwing fundamentalist Christian”
“He’s a Redneck”
“She is so immature”
“What an underachiever”
“He’s a failure; worthless”
“What a lowlife”
“He/she is narrow-minded”
Stereotyping and name-calling can destroy a person! Sometimes those names we were smeared with years ago can stick with us and make us think that’s who we really are! That’s why we should be careful with our words; and we should be especially sensitive to labeling children, because even innocent name-calling can create long-term complexes. But in an age of caustic rhetoric I want to discuss, Who Jesus Says You Are. I know you have been misread and mischaracterized and others have already formed their opinion about you. You may have even acquiesced to Satan’s lying indictment. But I want you to hear from a higher witness—the Word of God. And the Bible says:
You are a “son/daughter of God.”
You are an “heir of God” and a “joint heir with Christ.”
You are a “king and priest” that will rule with Christ forever.
You are righteous, redeemed and holy.
You are an overcomer.
You are an “ambassador of God.”
And in addition to all these crowning designations John says, “It does not yet appear what we shall be; but we know when He appears we shall be like Him.” The Apostle Paul said when Christ returns “we will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (53) For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality (1 Corinthians 15:52-53). I don’t know about you, but I feel better after hearing the Bible’s assessment of me. But more specifically, what does Jesus Christ say about Christians? Who does He say we are? In Matthew 5, Jesus said Christians are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” And that means, regardless of anyone else’s opinion, you are of great value to God.
(Transition) Let’s investigate these statements that Jesus used to identify His followers. First, Jesus said Christians are the “salt of the earth.”
I. Christians are the “Salt of the Earth”
Salt was highly valued in the ancient world. The Greeks of the First Century said salt was divine. The Romans suggested that “nothing [was] more useful than sun and salt.” Jesus realized the positive connection the Romans and Greeks attributed to salt and that’s why He associated it with His followers. Here is what Jesus meant when He said Christians are “are the salt of the earth.”
1. First, Jesus wanted Christians to understand their pure, righteous nature. Nothing needs to be added or extracted from salt to purify it because it is already pure. Of course, salt can be iodized but that process does not make it any purer. Its basic constituency is pure.
That’s what Jesus wants us to know about ourselves. The Holy Spirit cleanses every sinner that accepts Christ as Savior. Christ imputes us with His holy and righteous nature and there is nothing we can do to improve our standing before God. Our purity proceeds strictly from Christ! That’s why 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come.” How does this happen? Only through Jesus Christ! Christ alone expunges our sin and transforms us into holy creatures; and we need to be aware of that!
But once that transformation occurs something else needs to happen. What Christ cleanses on the inside should be manifested on the outside. As the “salt of the earth” the Lord calls Christians to model a higher standard than the world manifests. The sociologists, politicians, and philosophers assume they know how to make this planet a better place. They believe their ideology and programs will resolve the world’s problems. But no permanent blessing will come to this world apart from Christ. And until the Lord returns in glory to renew this place, you and I must salt the world with God’s grace and goodness. God called Christians to maintain our “saltiness” and show forth a resolute standard in speech, conduct, and principle. God didn’t place us in this world to accept its values—values that are literally destroying this world—He placed us here to model God’s goodness—something that transforms this world.
Yes, I know living by the principles of Scripture is often repugnant to the world. The Christian life would be far less contentious if the standard God required didn’t conflict with the world’s standard. Secularists would love for Christians to confine their convictions to the sanctuary. You see, unbelievers don’t have much of a problem with Christians denouncing social deviance from the four walls of the Sanctuary. It’s proclaiming Biblical values in the marketplace that distresses the world! But, Saints of God, the Lord didn’t Christians to be “sugar”; He called us to be “salt”! And that means we have to proclaim moral values in all arenas of society.
The apostle James issued a serious warning when he said, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (4:4). The fact is, Christians wrap themselves in a garment of deceit when they cozy up to the world and compromise Biblical values. Regardless of how difficult it may be, we must model a higher standard and “salt . . . the earth.”
(Transition) Secondly, I want you to note another application from the statement that Christians are the “salt of the earth.”
2. Salt is connected with preservation. For centuries, salt has been used as a preservative. Its presence can preserve foods from corruption. And the same can be said about the preservative influence Christians exert upon this world. The salt of God’s presence in believers has often spared the world from God’s judgment. The Bible shows that God withheld the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah until Lot departed. And the Bible says the Lord will not destroy this world until He raptures the righteous into His presence. In a very real way, Christians are the salt God uses to preserve the world.
To comprehend the importance of what Jesus meant when He called Christians the “salt of the earth” you need to understand something about sin. Sin is destructive! It kills, corrupts, injures, and poisons. It is completely without compliment. You can attribute every ill and evil of this world directly to Adam’s sin! When Adam disobeyed God all creation fell under the curse of sin. Isaiah 24:5 says, “The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, [and] broke the everlasting covenant.” You see, disobedience to God invokes a curse. You can’t write a commentary on sin without recognizing that. I know it’s redundant, but sin is poisonous, cancerous, murderous, wretched, evil, defiled, and wicked. And when it is sown it infests and chokes the presence of God’s goodness.
Do you realize there are sins that the Bible says severely pollute and defile the very “land” we live on? They actually curse the soil and atmosphere where the sins are committed! Let me show you:
In Genesis 4, Cain killed his brother Able for one reason: Jealousy! And when God saw that Abele’s innocent blood was shed, He cursed the ground that Cain gardened and inhibited its strength to yield fruit.
Notice Numbers 35:33. “You shall not pollute the land in which you are; for blood pollutes the land and no expiation can be made for the land for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it.”
One reason America suffers disunity among the races is because we have shed innocent blood! You cannot disassociate the abortion of millions of unborn babies without a direct correlation to the collapse of American unity. This is why Proverbs 14:34 says, “righteousness exalts a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people.” Sin always afflicts the world with entropy—it cripples, maims, and destroys. But God says “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
(Transition) There is one more fact I want to mention about salt.
3. Salt seasons foods. Many foods are dull and tasteless without salt. And Christians are to life what salt is to food—flavor! God wants us to add flavor and spice to life. Unfortunately, people have connected Christians with precisely the opposite. They perceive Christians as extracting the zest from life.
(Quote) Years ago the emperor Julian said this about Christians. “Have you looked at these Christians closely? Hollow-eyed, [and] pale-cheeked . . . they brood their lives away, un-spurred by ambition; the sun shines for them, but they do not see it; the earth offers them its fullness, but they desire it not; all their desire is to renounce and suffer that they may come to die.”
(Quote) Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers.”
(Quote) Robert Louis Stevenson wrote in his diary, “I have been to church today, and am not depressed.”
But God wants us to learn to live in a way that brings joy, radiance, and happiness to others.
(Transition) So Jesus says Christians are the “salt of the earth,” and we should be. But secondly, Christ said Christians are the “light of the world.”
II. Christians are the “Light of the World”
Jesus said in Matthew 5:14 16, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. (15) Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. (16) In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
This is one of the greatest compliments Jesus assigned to His followers. That’s because He said Christians were what He claimed to be. Jesus said in John 5:9, “I am the light of the world.” Just as the moon reflects the glory of the sun, Christians reflect the glory of Christ! Let’s analyze what Jesus meant when He called Christians the “light of the world.”
1. Lights are meant to be seen. The world is full of lights. Candle-lights, flashlights, streetlights, spotlights, traffic lights, headlights, and so on. I love to fly into a large city at night. It’s a beautiful sight to see a city with hundreds of thousands of lights illuminating the landscape.
But what is the purpose of light? The purpose of light is to show the way. Light makes it possible to see and without it we are blind to our surroundings. Jesus said in John 12:35, “he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes.” That is why it is so important for Christians to light the way of Christ for others. You and I are responsible for shining the light of God’s Word so that others will see the path they need to travel. Think about that. You are the light of the world!
The problem with the world is this: Unbelievers assume they can find their own way to God. But they can’t! Solomon said, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end of those ways leads to death.” The world will remain blind so long as no one shines the light of God’s Word. Christians are the luminaries of a world abiding in darkness. And if our lights are dim the world will not find its way to Christ. That’s why it’s our responsibility to shine brightly!
How Christians Can Shine for Christ
In what ways should Christians shine the light of Christ?
First, We should tell others the way of salvation through Christ Jesus. Don’t be ashamed of retelling the Gospel story. People need to hear it!
Second, you shine the light of Christ through your behavior and actions. And love should be the brightest shining virtue in our lives. That’s why Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 that if we lived without God’s love, all else reverberating from our lives would be no more than a clanging cymbal or resounding gong. Let me explain what Paul meant by that.
(Illustration) In the First Century pagan temples were scattered everywhere. And at the entrance of these temples there was literally a huge gong or cymbal that was suspended. When people came to worship, they would take a mallet and pound these gongs thinking they could awaken their gods so they would hear their prayers. Paul was wise enough to make the connection here. He understood that if he could speak with the eloquence of men and angels, and possessed the intellect of a philosopher, yet lived without God’s love, his life was as meaningless as pounding a “gong” to awaken gods that didn’t even exist! God is love and He wants His children to be marked by His love.
Third, Christians can shine the light of Christ by spreading joy. Think about it. The rising of the sun brings joy to all creation. Without the presence of light the hearts and minds of men would faint with gloom and pessimism. Nature yearns to rejoice. Birds sing, squirrels play, flowers and trees bloom, the waves clap against the shore. It abounds with cheer; and Christians should too!
(Illustration) Years ago I preached for an elderly couple in central Florida. Regardless of how cheerful or positive I tried to be, they remained some of the most despondent, negative people I have encountered in ministry. It was February and the weather was perfect, so one afternoon I looked outside and said, “My it’s a beautiful day!” The pastor’s wife instantly stopped what she was doing, looked at me, and then blurted out, “Yes, but a cold front is moving in tomorrow”!
Don’t be that way! If the light of joy is absent in your life, then look for the Scriptures promising joy:
“With joy we draw water from the wells of salvation.”
Nehemiah 8:10 says, “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Jesus said, “I came so that you might have life and have it more abundantly.”
Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice.”
God has no lack of joy and He makes it available to those that ask. “You are the light of the world”!