On a bright sunny day, when you first walk into a dark movie theater, you
usually remark about how dark it is. If there was no usher to show you to a
seat, you probably had to stand in the back for a few minutes until the
darkness seemed to clear and you began to see again. Before long, you could
see without difficulty. Indeed, you seemed to be able to see normally.
"Normally," that is, until you walked out into the sunlight again
and the bright glare forced you to cover your eyes.
We Christians are often in the same predicament. We live in a dimly
lighted world, where sin is the rule and not the exception. And yet we are
really children of the light. We must always be on our guard that we do not
become so accustomed to the darkness of our world that we think it is normal
and conform to its guidelines. It is not normal. The dim moral and spiritual
insight of the world is not the standard that the Christian is to walk by.
Key Verse: Matthew 5:13-16
The world can be divided into two kinds of people:
First, there are the believers who are indwelled by God because of
Christ. The other group consists of the unbelievers of this world. They are
proud, selfsufficient, and do not understand their own unrighteousness
before a Holy God. Before we can discuss how a believer can influence the
world, we have to examine what type of people are believers. Jesus describes
these people in the verses immediately preceding verses 13-16. We have come
to know these verses as the Beatitudes. Lets read them.
3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom
4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 "Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.
7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons
10 "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of
righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 "Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and
persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on
account of Me.
12 "Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great,
for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Believers are called blessed. Makarios (blessed) means happy,
fortunate, blissful. The fullest meaning of the term has to do with an
inward contentment that is not affected by circumstances. That is the kind
of happiness God desires for His children, a state of joy and well-being
that does not depend on physical, temporary circumstances. This attitude is
reflected when Paul says in
11 Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in
whatever circumstances I am.
12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to
live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the
secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and
13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
The word blessed is often used of God Himself, as when David ended one of
his psalms with the declaration "Blessed be God!" (Ps. 68:35).
Blessedness is a characteristic of God, and men can only be characterized
this way when they share in the nature of God. There is no blessedness, or
contentment and joy of the kind which Jesus is talking about here, except
that which comes from a personal relationship to Him. Being blessed means
having Gods nature within. 2 Pet 1:4 tells us that it is through Jesus
and his magnificent promises that we become partakers of the divine nature,
having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
So, to be blessed is not a superficial feeling of well-being based on
circumstance, but a deep supernatural experience of contentment based on the
fact that our life is right with God. Blessed people are the people who
realize their spiritual helplessness, show sorrow over sin, and who are meek
(or balanced between extremes), hungry for Gods righteousness, merciful,
pure in heart, peacemakers, ridiculed, persecuted, or slandered because of
Christ. Blessed people are the ones who make up the kingdom of heaven. The
great blessings emphasized in verses 3-12 lead to the great responsibilities
of verses 13-16 to be salt and light in the world.
The world needs salt because it is corrupt and it needs light because it
is dark. G. Campbell Morgan said, "Jesus, looking out over the
multitudes of His day, saw the corruption, the disintegration of life at
every point, its breakup, its spoilation; and, because of His love of the
multitudes, He knew the thing that they needed most was salt in order that
the corruption should be arrested. He saw them also wrapped in gloom,
sitting in darkness, groping amid mists and fogs. He knew that they needed,
above everything else,
light" (The Gospel According to Matthew
[New York: Revell, 1929], p. 46)
The biblical world view is that the world is corrupted and decayed, that
it is dark and darkening. Paul stated in 2 Tim 3:13 that "Evil men and
impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being
deceived." Man is infected with sin, which has no cure apart from God.
The world loves its own way and hates Gods way. However, because of
Christ, believers are no longer "fornicators, nor idolaters, nor
adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor
drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers" (1 Cor. 6:9-10). Rather,
believers "are washed . . . sanctified . . . justified in the name of
the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:11). Indeed,
believers are "a people for His own possession" (Titus 2:14) who
are observed by unbelievers.
Therefore, it is the difference in our character that distinguishes us
from unbelievers. The believer influences the unbeliever by what he is,
not by what he has. Turning our attention to verse 13 we see that Christ
did not say, "You have salt and light to dispense," but rather
"You are the salt. . . . You are the light of the world" (Matt.
5:13, 14). The believers very presence in the world acts as salt and
light, preventing corruption and exposing error. The only question, as Jesus
goes on to say, is whether or not we are tasteful salt and effective light
2 Cor 2:14-16
14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in
Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him
in every place.
15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being
saved and among those who are perishing;
16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma
from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?
Returning back to Matt 5:13, the "you" in both verses is
plural. It is His whole body, the church, which is called to be the worlds
salt and light. Each person has ones own limited influence, but the church
collectively is to have an influence throughout the world.
Christ is the source of our savor and of our light.
9 There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens
5 "While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
But now that He has physically left this world for a time, His light now
shines through us.
8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord;
walk as children of light
13 For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred
us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,
We are Gods salt to retard corruption and His light to reveal truth.
God has changed us from being part of the corrupted and corrupting world to
being salt that can help preserve it. He has changed us from our own
darkness to be His agents of giving light to others. By definition, an
influence must be different from that which it influences, and Christians
therefore must be different from the world they are called to influence. We
cannot influence the world for God when we are worldly ourselves. We cannot
give light to the world if we revert to places and ways of darkness
Now salt is often used as a preservative. Rubbed into meat, a little salt
will slow decay. Strictly speaking salt cannot lose its saltiness; sodium
chloride is a stable compound. So what was Jesus talking about when he
talked about the salt losing its saltiness? Most salt in the ancient world
derived from salt marshes or the like, rather than by evaporation of salt
water, and therefore contained many impurities. Much salt in Palestine, such
as that found on the shores of the Dead Sea, is contaminated with gypsum and
other minerals that make it taste flat and even repulsive. The actual salt,
being more soluble than the impurities, could be leached out, leaving a
residue so dilute it was of little worth. When a batch of such contaminated
salt would find its way into a household and be discovered, it was thrown
out. People would be careful not to throw it on a garden or field, because
it would kill whatever was planted. Instead it would be thrown onto a path
or road, where it would gradually be ground into the dirt and disappear.
Jesus is not speaking here of losing salvation.
27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;
28 and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and
no one shall snatch them out of My hand.
Christians cannot lose their salvation, just as salt cannot lose its
inherent saltiness. But Christians can lose their value and effectiveness in
the kingdom when sin and worldliness contaminate their lives, just as salt
can become tasteless when contaminated by other minerals. So Jesus is
implying that His disciples have a particular function to perform on earth,
and if they fail to perform it, they might as well not exist for all the
good they will do. Since the disciples are spoken of as the salt of the
earth in the same context of the Sermon on the Mount in which they are also
spoken of as the light of the world and a city set on a hill, it is
evidently their public life that is in view. They must be seen by others as
living examples of the power and grace of God, examples which others are
encouraged to follow.
Light, too, is in danger of becoming useless. Like salt, it cannot lose
its essential nature. A hidden light is still light, but its useless.
That is why people do not light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure,
but on a lamp stand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. A light
that is hidden under a peck-sized basket is of no use at all to the person
hiding it or to anyone else. Rather, the light should be placed on a lamp
stand where it can give light to all who are in the house.
And so Jesus concludes by telling His disciples to let their light shine
before men in such a way that they may see their good works, and glorify
their Father who is in heaven (vs.14). The word for "good" that
Jesus uses here emphasizes attractiveness and beautiful appearance. The
purpose of letting our light shine and reveal our good works is not to bring
attention or praise to ourselves but to God. Our intent should be that, in
what we are and in what we do, others may see God in order that they may
glorify [our] Father who is in heaven. Everything we do should be done to
cause others to give praise to God who is the source of all that is good.
That is the kind of salt and light God wants His kingdom people to be.
Now, for us as believers to be effective in this world, we have some
things to consider. First, remember that salt comes from the earth. What is
one characteristic of the earth? It is made up of dirt and dirt is dirty.
Another thing to remember is that every believer is earthly. We still
inhabit "dirty" or fleshly bodies. 2 Cor 5:1 describes our earthly
bodies as an earthly tent that we live in. Now we have learned that salt
must be removed and separated from the earth in order to reach its purest
form of saltiness. Does this mean that as believers, we must be physically
removed and separated from the world, or our bodies, that we live in? Well,
Jesus didnt say that directly. On the contrary he said in John 17:15-18:
15 "I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep
them from the evil one.
16 "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
17 "Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth.
18 "As Thou didst send Me into the world, I also have sent them
into the world.
So, lest we become like salt to be thrown out, as long as we indwell
these earthly or "dirty" bodies, we need to remember that:
3:1 If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the
things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on
3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be
revealed with Him in glory.
5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to
immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to
1 John 2:15-17
15 Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone
loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust
of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but
is from the world.
17 And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who
does the will of God abides forever.
2 Cor 6:14-18
14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership
have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with
15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in
common with an unbeliever?
16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the
temple of the living God; just as God said, "I will dwell in them
and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My
17 "Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,"
says the Lord. "And do not touch what is unclean; And I will
18 "And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and
daughters to Me," Says the Lord Almighty.
Lest we need any further motivation to this end, see 2 Cor 5:9-10
2 Cor 5:9-10
9 Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent,
to be pleasing to Him.
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that
each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what
he has done, whether good or bad.
Separation from the world is a very important duty. In closing todays
lesson, I want to make points of application from J.C. Ryles book, Practical
Religion, from his chapter on The World. I think that these
points can be related to our topic of being salt and light in our world.
Separation from the world has always been one of the evidences of Gods
work of grace in the heart. Those who have really been born of Gods
Spirit have always separated from the world, whereas those who are
Christians only in name always refuse to come out and be separate. The
subject is especially important today, because many are trying to make
Christianity as easy as possible and to avoid the need for self-denial.
The world is a source of great danger to the soul. By "the
world", I do not mean the physical world in which we live. When I speak
of "the world" I mean those people who think only, or mainly, of
the things of this world and neglect the world to come those who think
more about the body than the spirit, more about pleasing men than about
pleasing God. By "the world" I mean these people, together with
their way of life, their opinions, their tastes, their ambitions and their
outlook. This is the world that is dangerous to the soul. This is the world
from which we must come out and be separate.
What does Gods word say about this matter? (Ryle gives several verses
of which we dont have time to read, but I will give you the references
you can look up later. Romans 12:2, 1 Cor 2:12, Gal 1:4, Eph 2:2, 2 Tim
4:10, James 4:4, James 1:27, 1 John 2:15-17, 3:1, 4:5, 5:4, and 5:19, John
17:16, Matt 13:22, John 8:23, 14:17, 15:18-19 and 16:33)
These texts speak for themselves. No rational person can deny that they
teach that "the world" is the Christians enemy. Moreover,
Christian experience confirms this. The greatest damage to Christs cause
is love of the world. Thousands who think they are Christians get
shipwrecked here. They do not deliberately choose evil, or reject any
biblical doctrine. But they love the world and must keep in with it. It is
their love of the world which leads them down the broad way of destruction.
Let me now show you what separation from the world does not mean. It is
important to be clear about this, for sometimes we can do great harm by
acting on a false understanding of what separation from the world means.
When God says come out and be separate, this does not mean that we should
give up our work in the world. Cornelius the soldier, Luke the doctor and
Zenas the lawyer are examples of men in secular work. In fact, it is sinful
to be idle, and idleness often leads us into temptation. We must not give up
any occupation (unless it is sinful in and of itself) out of fear that it
will harm us. That is lazy and cowardly conduct. What we ought to do is to
take our Christianity with us into our places of employment in the world.
It does not mean that we should have nothing at all to do with
unconverted people. Our Lord and his disciples went to a marriage feast.
They had a meal in a Pharisees house. In 1 Cor 10:27, Paul tells us how
to behave if an unbeliever invites us to a feast. He does not tell us not to
go. We must not cut ourselves off in this way from opportunities of doing
good. If Christ is with us wherever we go, we may be the means of saving
others without harming ourselves.
It does not mean that we should take no interest in anything except
religion. Some may think it very spiritual to neglect science, art,
literature, and politics, to read no books except spiritual ones, to read no
newspapers and to know nothing about the government of their country. I
think that is an idle and selfish neglect of duty. Paul valued good
government (1 Tim 2:2); he quoted heathen writers in his sermons; he knew
the laws and customs of the world, as we see from his illustrations.
Christians who pride themselves on ignorance bring religion into contempt.
It does not mean that we should be eccentric in our dress, manners, or
voice. We should never attract attention to ourselves by these means. There
is no reason to suppose that our Lord and his disciples dressed and behaved
differently from others of their own society. The Lord condemned the
Pharisees for "making broad their phylacteries and enlarging the
borders of their garments" so as to be "seen by men".
It does not mean that we should retire from society and live in solitude.
We cannot keep the devil out of our hearts by retreating into a corner. True
Christianity and unworldliness are better seen when we manfully stand our
ground and show the power of grace to overcome evil, than when we forsake
the post where God has placed us.
It does not mean that we should withdraw from every church that is
imperfect. In all Pauls letters we see the faults and corruption of
churches reproved, but Christians are never told to leave those churches
because they were not perfect.
We need to consider these six points carefully. Many people make mistakes
in relation to each of them, and much misery and unhappiness is caused by
those mistakes. Here are two pieces of advice (especially if you are a young
Christian). First, remember that the shortest path is not always the path of
duty. We may think it right to quarrel with all our unconverted relatives,
cut off all our friends, withdraw completely from society, give up every act
of normal courtesy and devote our self entirely to the direct work of
Christ. It may satisfy our conscience and save us trouble. But often it is a
selfish, lazy, self-pleasing way to behave.
Second, if we want to come out from the world, we need to beware of a
sour, unattractive, gloomy and unpleasant way of behaving. We need to strive
to show others that our principles (whatever they may think about them) make
us cheerful, agreeable, good-tempered, unselfish, considerate of others and
ready to take an interest in everything that is innocent and good. Let there
be no needless separation. In many things we must be separate. But be
careful that it is the right kind of separation.
So, what does separation from the world really mean?
- We must consistently refuse to be guided by the worlds standard of
right and wrong. We shouldnt do things just because everybody does
them. Our standard must be the Word of God alone.
- We must be very careful how we spend our leisure time. This is very
important, for often our leisure time is a time of temptation. We need
to be careful how we spend our evenings, and make sure that we always
make time for quiet thought, Bible reading and prayer.
- We must consistently resolve not to be swallowed up and absorbed by
the business of the world. As Christians we must strive to do our
earthly business to the very best of our ability. But we must not allow
it to come between us and Christ. If our earthly business begins to
encroach upon our Sundays, and to crowd out Bible reading and prayer,
then it is taking over our life.
- We must abstain from all entertainments that are inseparably connected
with sin. This is a difficult subject, but one we need to consider. The
fact is that some entertainments may be innocent when considered in and
of themselves. But we must also consider whether in practice they are
inseparably accompanied by sin. If so, we must abstain from them.
- We must be moderate in our use of lawful and innocent recreations. We
all need recreation, both for our bodies and for our minds. But even
good and right recreations become wrong when they take up too much of
our time and attention.
- We must be careful about friendships and close relationships with
worldly people. I am not saying we should have nothing to do with
unconverted people. But intimate friendship is quite a different matter.
If we choose for our close friends people who care nothing about
salvation, or Christ, or the Bible, we will hinder our progress as a
Christian. We should be able to realize that our unsaved friends
tastes and ways are not the same as ours, and we will have to choose
between the two. And it is particularly important to realize this when
it comes to choosing a husband or wife. We cannot possibly choose a
worldly partner without doing immense harm to our spiritual life or
happiness. If you are not yet married, make it your resolve that you
will not even consider marrying someone who is not a decided Christian.
What should we do when we are uncertain how to apply these principles in
a particular situation? First, we should pray for wisdom. Then remember that
Gods eye is always on us. He will help us make the right choice. We need
to ask our self which course of action we would want to be found pursuing
when Christ comes again. Also, it is helpful to consider how other holy
Christians have behaved in similar circumstances. If we cannot clearly see
our own way, it is not wrong to follow good examples.
Ill close with a story. Before the colonialists imposed national
boundaries, the kings of Laos and Vietnam reached an agreement on taxation
in the border areas. Those who ate short-grain rice, built their houses on
stilts, and decorated them with Indian-style serpents were considered
Laotians. On the other hand, those who ate long-grain rice, built their
houses on the ground, and decorated them with Chinese-style dragons were
considered Vietnamese. The exact location of a persons home was not what
determined his or her nationality. Instead, each person belonged to the
kingdom whose cultural values he or she exhibited. So it is with us: we live
in the world, but as part of Gods kingdom, we are to live according to
his kingdoms standards and values.