Summary: We are called to be the salt and light of the world.

Matthew 5:13-16

July 29, 2007

When someone looks at you, other than looking at your extraordinary good looks, what do they see? If we could really cut to the chase, it’s not about those good looks, it’s about who you are in Jesus!

Over the past week we have had some major controversies in the world of sports. . .

Michael Vick, a great athlete and quarterback for Atlanta, was indicted for dog fighting at his home.

A longtime NBA referee is under investigation for being linked with the mob and betting on games he officiated - which means he most likely fixed the outcomes of some games.

Barry Bonds is about to break the major league baseball record for career home runs, despite rampant rumors of steroid usage.

Michael Rasmussen was leading the biggest bicycle race in the world, called the Tour de France when he was kicked out of the race.

The one thing that jumps out about these athletes is the question mark on their character. When we think about any of these sports, we often can’t finish the conversation without talking about the negatives.

What about adding Nicole Ritchie, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton to the conversation - this doesn’t cast a good picture for young actresses and singers.

I think you get the picture. For the next couple of weeks we’re going to look at what being a believer in Jesus means. What are we supposed to look like, and how do we get connected to our life source . . . Jesus.

So, what does a “real” Christian look like? How can you recognize the real thing?

☺ Can you spot a real Christian by knowing their political affiliation?

☺ Can you identify a Christian based on how they vote on political & social issues?

☺ If they have a fish decal on their car? Does that indicate for that the occupant is a

bonafide fisher of people?

Someone told me once that if the fish points to the right this person is a conservative Christian and if it points to the left they are a liberal. I don’t know about that, but does the presence of this decal say anything about the driver’s level of spiritual maturity?

☺ How about denominational affiliation? Is someone more likely to be a sincere

Christian if they’re in the SBC or the CBF or the UMC or the RCC or the AME

or the PCA or the ABC?

☺ Do cross pendants around people’s necks show they are committed to Christ?

☺ Or what about taste in worship music?

☺ If someone prefers to clap their hands and sing praise choruses, is that an

indication of the depth of their love of Jesus?

☺ Or are people who stand reverently singing from a hymnal more likely to be truly devoted to the kingdom of God?

It can be very difficult to determine what a real Christian looks or acts like.

Jesus gives us a very real call for our lives . . . we are to be the salt and light of the world. It’s as if God is saying “Plan A is for you, my followers to go into the world, to be salt and light to the world. Attract people with your faithfulness, with your goodness, with your radical commitment to me. Follow me and I will make you attractive to people.” And by the way folks, there is no Plan B.

We have been entrusted by God to go into the world, to take the message of Jesus Christ into our homes, our communities, our workplace, with friends and we are to help lead others to know who Jesus is. There is nothing more exciting or joyful than to know you are being used by God to bring His message of grace, hope, forgiveness and eternal life to someone who needs to experience Christ’s love.

Salt and light may not sound like a great strategy for reaching the world but we have to understand how Jesus was using salt and light as metaphors. One thing that salt and light have in common is they have a radical influence on whatever it is they come into contact with. That’s the important thing.

Notice that when Jesus said we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, He was not stating that as a suggestion. They are stated as requirements. Jesus said, “YOU are the salt of the earth and YOU are the light of the world.” No ‘ifs, ands, or buts about it.’ Jesus doesn’t say you are like salt or that we will be light at some time in the future. He said WE are these things. This is a major part of our calling. It’s our purpose as His disciples. It’s who we are and why we live in this world. Once we accept Jesus into our lives, we are automatically tasked with functioning as the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Think about what salt does. It makes people thirsty, it spices things up, it acts as a preservative and it enhances flavor. So what Jesus was saying to His followers was, “Here’s what I want you to do ~

Live the kind of life that’s going to make people thirst for the truth about Me.

Eat a bunch of salty potato chips and it will make you thirsty. Go to the theater and eat lots of salty popcorn, and you have to wash it down. Salt makes us thirst, and in the same way that it makes us thirst we are to live our lives in the same manner. We are to live with character and actions and attitudes which reflect Jesus in our lives.

When there is a sticky problem at work, one which makes you angry, and your coworkers see you handle it with yelling and an outpouring of anger, does that help lead that person to know Jesus? No way!! But if in that same situation, you express your anger in a healthy, positive manner, think about what you are saying to your coworkers . . . you are demonstrating Christ in a very real way. That makes people thirst, because in their eyes you are attractive.

Live the kind of life that’s going to spice things up. You know, before I became a Christian I thought Christians were a bunch of sourpusses. But we’re not are we? No way!!! Amen? Amen. As a Christian, you can live a great fun filled, joy filled life and show the world who Jesus is.

When we live life like a preservative, we help slow down the rate of moral decay. We don’t do it by protesting and complaining. That’s what the world has come to expect from Christians. We are often viewed as a bunch of ‘whiny babies.’ Instead, we are to take positive actions. We don’t let the world get us down, we use our God given resources, resources like . . . and I know this may sound a bit radical, but the greatest resource we have is GOD, Himself. Call upon God for the strength and wisdom and peace we need.

Miracles still occur, and we need to believe in what God can do. I have heard many people quoting Ephesians 3:20 lately. It’s one of the scriptures I really like, and one I really believe in. Catch the way the NKJV records Paul’s words ~

20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.

The phrase exceedingly abundantly is really poor English, and I will talk more about that phrase in a future sermon when we talk about John 10:10, because Jesus uses the same phrase. . . Please understand this is the manner of extravagance God wants to pour into our lives, and the lives of those around us. It means God will give us more than we can imagine, more than is even necessary. And realize that it is the power of God, through the Holy Spirit which is where? It’s already within us!! This is the power which helps us to dream and imagine and believe that God is going to do something above and beyond our wildest dreams.

This flows into the fourth thing salt does, it enhances flavor. And what we are talking about flows right into this theme. We are to live the kind of life that will show other people that following Jesus will enhance their life like nothing else. We are to help people discover joy, peace, grace, and of course God’s love.

We need to believe in the good news, so we can become the good news, so we can share the good news.

No one likes to be around a negative, long-faced grump. But unfortunately that’s what many non-Christians equate with Christianity. They think the typical church is made up of a bunch of unhappy, joyless people, complaining people.

It was reported that Oliver Wendell Holmes said, ‘he might have become a pastor if certain ministers he knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers.’ Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote in his diary, as if he was recording an extraordinary phenomenon, “I have been to church today and am not depressed.”

Think about your walk with Jesus. How well are you . . . and I demonstrating His love to the world? Do people look at us as if we were those old crusty salty, yucky tasting people? Ever have to gargle with salt water? It’s disgusting, and is that how people look at us? Or do we show the love of Jesus, because we really believe in Jesus and we are the salt of the earth?

Now, let’s think about light. What does light do? It illuminates, it exposes, it draws people to a destination. Light attracts people. Try this experiment at home - - go into your room, close the doors, close the blinds on the windows, and if you are not claustrophobic, go into your closet with all of the lights off. Once in the closet, and make sure it DOES NOT LOCK, try to make the room darker, put clothing over your eyes. Put more and more clothing over your eyes and it will not make the room one bit darker. However, you can always add more light, and that is what we are to be doing, adding more of Christ’s light into our lives, so that we can let His light shine through us.

Live the kind of life that’s going to shine His compassion into areas where there is hostility and hatred. Live the kind of life that will attract people toward Jesus.

Pastor Tony Evans once said, “If you want a better world, composed of better nations, inhabited by better states, filled with better counties, made up of better cities, comprised of better neighborhoods, illuminated by better churches, populated with better families, then start by becoming a better person.”

You see, we need to be the leaders, not the followers. We can’t be waiting for others to get involved in changing the world for Jesus, we need to stand up for Jesus and show the world just who we are as brothers and sisters in Christ. You know that old song, ‘they’ll know we are Christians by our love.’ It’s true, when you really love someone, they know it, and they respond to it.

Well, let me ask you: Is there something in your world who needs a positive influence? Do you dislike your work environment because it’s so cut throat? For some reason, is your neighborhood a bad place to live? Are their hard feelings between you and your family or friends? Does your next-door neighbor seem to be unable to mow their lawn?

Are there any "annoying needs" in your corner of the world?

You know what I’m getting at! Do you know some people who need to know Jesus? Of course you do! We all do!

How can you do something about it? This is what salt and light people do! Don’t avoid the bad — get involved because that is what it takes to make things better and this attracts people to you.

The people on the mountain understood what Jesus meant by salt and light. Today, we take them for granted. They knew Jesus expected His followers to be involved in the real world. Are we?

How sensitive are we to those who have needs? Are we willing to find someone who everybody else is ignoring - the lonely, the forgotten, the grief stricken, the sick, and be the one God uses to extend His compassion. That will mark their lives. And it may very well change their eternity. Few things in this world are as salt savoring and as illuminating as a simple act of kindness done in the name of Jesus.

A Christian doesn’t hide their light, they let it shine. They apply their faith to life.

Does the way you live your life point people to Jesus? Do people see your good deeds? Can they observe the way you make life better for those who know you? Can they look at you and say, “They must know God. He or she must be a believer. I need to talk to them because I want what they have!”

Let’s pray


As we sing our hymn of dedication, you may want to just bow your head and say, “God, I want to be saltier, I want to be the light in my family. I want to be a better husband or wife or parent or child.”

Or “God, I want to do a better job of showing your love in my corner of the world. Give me strength and wisdom and the people to show it to.”

Or “God, I want to shine brighter in my neighborhood, at work or at school. I want to live in such a way that I point people to you.”

Of course, if you feel God leading you to respond publicly, whether to profess your faith in Jesus or to join this church family, or if you need prayer, come forward during our final hymn.