Matt 5:14 You are the light of the world.
Have you ever noticed that when we talk about being salt and light in the world, it usually centers around us taking stands against practices we see as wrong and even evil? We have ministries to make us aware of laws that we can support or those we must oppose.We seem to think that participating in those ministries meets the requirements of this scripture. Now, do not misunderstand me, I am all for those things. We have that kind of ministry at my church and I praise God for it and participate in it.
In America, we the people, are responsible for the laws that are passed or rejected so we, as believers in Christ, should participate in the process. God has allowed us the privilege of electing people to represent us in government. We need to use that privilege to affect our culture as much as possible for good.
BUT, if we limit our understanding of these verses to just doing that, I think we are missing the boat and our influence may not be what it should be. So let’s take a closer look and see what these verses are telling us.
First, notice Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world.” Not ,“you should try to become” but you are. It is not something you do or say, it is who and what you are.
The word are in Greek is eimi and it means to exist. By virtue of your faith in Christ you exist as salt of the earth and light of the world! There is nothing that you can do to change that. You don’t make yourself saltier or brighter, but Jesus warns us that salt can become useless. We can lose our flavor.In other words, we will have no effect or influence on the world around us.
Jesus also warned us about hiding our light. He did not say that we could extinguish the light but that we could cover it up. We are light but we need to let our light shine so that people can see our good works and glorify God, not us. The good works are not the light, we are the light. The good works are only a demonstration that God is at work in us.
If the good works come out of living a life of faith in Christ, then our light is shining for all to see and God is glorified. If instead, we are like the Pharisees, doing it for show, God is not glorified and those works are wood, hay and stubble which will be thrown into the fire and burned.
So how is it that we lose our saltiness? How is it that our light can be hidden?
To understand that we need to look back at the context of this statement, starting in verse 3 of Matthew 5. Jesus was beginning the sermon on the mount and in verses 3-11 he describes a salty person, a born again believer who has the Spirit of God in them. (Get your Bible open!)
Note the qualities that we will see in that person
1 Poor in Spirit: knowing their sin and need for a savior
2 Mourner: one who mourns over their spiritual condition before faith and over those who are in lost condition
3 Gentle or meek: as opposed to proud and confident in themselves
4 Hungry and thirsty for righteousness: wanting to do the right things in God’s eyes
5 Merciful: demonstrating God’s mercy by extending it to others
6 Pure in heart: having been cleansed from sin by faith and recognizing the need for continual cleansing of sin.
7 Peacemakers: desire to bring peace to others by bringing them to the Prince of Peace, the only one who can give them real peace
8 The persecuted: those who are willing to acknowledge their faith in Christ and live according to His will no matter what the consequences
If we have lost our flavor, it is because we are not demonstrating these characteristics in our lives.
If we are not influencing the world for God, it is not because we are not speaking out on issues, it is because we are not living out our faith. We need to ask ourselves some important questions.
Are we demonstrating the beatitudes? Have we lost our hunger and thirst for righteousness? Do we care more about the lost condition of the sinner than we do about their sin?
Are we still broken over our own sin or do we just pharisaically point out the sin of others? Do we extend mercy or only judgement.
Do we really want to see sinners saved or would we rather see them punished for their sin? Do we want people to know the peace that we have known in our Christian life?
Are we still willing to proclaim the love and hope there is in Jesus or are we too timid and afraid of persecution. Have we compromised and let the world influence us rather than us influencing the world.
I submit to you that if we are ineffective in our influence, it is not because of our failure to speak or act on issues, but instead, our failure to be that which Jesus called us to be. The point is that we need to understand that our influence in the world does not come from our trying to convince people that we are right on issues, but instead our influence comes from living a Godly life.
Think of the believers in the early church.How was it that they influenced the world that they lived in. We read in many of the New Testament letters that they suffered tremendous persecution but returned love. They lived out the beatitudes and the course of mankind was changed. I think about when I first read the sermon on the mount and how it seemed impossible to live out, but yet I had a burning desire to be that kind of person.
It took me many years before I understood that in my own power I could never be that person and that I needed the Holy Spirit to do that work in me. I learned that I could ask Him to accomplish it in me and that He would do it.
But I think that sometimes, after years of walking with the Lord, we can harden our hearts. We stop asking The Lord to make us more like Him. When we do that, we don’t continue to demonstrate those Christ like traits in our lives and so we lose our flavor, we hide our light and the world does not care to listen to us.
I really believe that rather than spending so much of our time trying to “fix” non believers thinking, we would do better to check our own lives to see if we have allowed our salt to become flavorless or have hidden our light under a bushel. If we really want to have that influence on the world we need to live in such a way that non believers want what we have. Then we have the opportunity to lead them to Christ. It is then that God opens their eyes to the things of the Spirit just as He did for us. That, I believe is how we can really see change, as God transforms each individual into the image of His own dear Son.
May God bless you as you let your light shine forJesus Christ,
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