Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Salt & Light, Matt. 5:13-16, Eph. 5:8-14

A couple of weeks ago, we looked at the Beatitudes. Jesus tells us that these are what His disciples are. We also looked at Romans 12 in which Paul gives us instructions on how to live these qualities. Today’s parables of salt and light reflect back to the Beatitudes. The blessed life is a result of what happens as we are fulfilled to carry out God’s mission. Once again, Jesus tells us that salt and light is what we are in the world. These are corporate, not simply individual, conditions. That together as gathered disciples, we are salt and light in the world. We can’t help but be salt and light, but we can lose our saltiness and hide our light.
What good is salt? Salt is a food preservative against rotting. We flavor to life and preserve life and society. When we describe someone as salt of the earth, we usually mean that the person is authentic, real, genuine, down-to-earth, and whose presence adds value not only to our lives but also to the world at large.
Salt doesn’t normally lose its strength, and neither should we. Jesus never means for us to lose our saltiness. The only way salt loses saltiness is by diluting it with water. We lose saltiness when we dilute ourselves with worldly behaviors and practices. High divorce rates, hate speech, gossip, cheating, lying, unethical business practices, and selfish behaviors by those who name the name of Christ cause the salt to lose its saltiness. As salt we are supposed to retard moral and ethical decay, not succumb to it. The good news is that when the water dries up, the salt regains its saltiness. It’s reconcentrated. The same is true for us. When we get rid of those behaviors and practices that contradict the life that Jesus has set for us, we too can be reconcentrated. When we confess and repent, turning again to follow Jesus, we regain our saltiness.
If we are untrue to our convictions, we lose our saltiness. There were also merchants who adulterated the salt by adding a cheap white powder to it in order to make more profit. The church has been guilty of adulterating the gospel in order to attract more followers. When we lose our loyalty to Jesus, we adulterate ourselves with the world and lose our ability to add the flavor of His goodness and holiness.
But we aren’t just supposed to be overwhelmingly salty either. When the proper amount of salt is used in cooking, it doesn’t make the dish salty, but it enhances the other flavors that are there, bringing out their goodness. We when act as salt, we lose our self, but bring out the God-given goodness in others as well as in ourselves.
We are also the light of the world. The light, however, doesn’t originate with us. Christ also called Himself “the light of the world.” He is the light, and we allow Him to shine through us as He lives in us. We make God’s light visible to others. We witness to the light when we testify to God’s transforming power in our lives both by our words and actions. How is God transforming you? What transformations can you see in your life?
Our Ephesians passage tells us we weren’t just in darkness without Christ; we were darkness. Now as children of light we to live what is good, right, and true—things that come from Christ. We also expose unfruitful works of darkness so that they can be renounced. We don’t expose works of darkness to bring judgment, but to turn them into light. We also have full assurance in the fact that the darkness will overcome the light. Have you ever been in a place that was really dark? I went on a cave tour where at one point, they turned off the lights. They wanted you to experience the weight of the darkness and demonstrate how little light was way down under the ground. And it was thickly dark at first. No sunlight could get in. You couldn’t even see the person next to you. But then, as you stood there awhile, you could start to see a bit of contrast. Even in pitch blackness, there was light because living things emit a little light of their own, and the dampness reflected the light. The light will always overcome the darkness, so we can keep shining brightly for Jesus. I have been blessed to know many people who glow with the light of Jesus. It’s really special when I get to see it in you. You do have that potential to burn brightly with Jesus.
We are to light the way to peace and safety like a city on a hill, which would have been a welcome site for a weary traveler on the road. Do we represent safety and rest for weary pilgrims in this world? Is our church a place of safety and rest?
Light also symbolizes meaning and insight. It’s not accident that in cartoons a light bulb is used to represent when someone has an idea or epiphany. We carry the light that gives meaning and purpose to living—the light of the gospel. The light we carry gives hope to a despairing world.
We hide God’s light when our actions don’t match our words. We also hide God’s light when we are ashamed of the gospel. Another way we lose our light is by being unplugged from the source. Jesus is never unplugged from us, because we have the Holy Spirit inside of us, but we can choose not to tap into the power of the Holy Spirit.
God’s light is seen in what we do. Kingdom living isn’t passive but active. Light must shine to carry out its mission. We have a job to do—carry out God’s mission. We are to live righteously to reflect God’s glory. It is our purpose to glorify God. Notice that Jesus doesn’t say when they see our good works, we are glorified, but that when they see our good works, they glorify our Father in heaven. All of our good works belong to God and are the result of God. God gets the glory for all we do. If as we serve God, things don’t turn out like we expect and seem to be a failure, we are not failures—the results belong to God. If as we serve God, the ministry seems to be prospering, that too is God’s business. The success belongs to God. God always gets the credit. This stands in direct contrast with those like the hypocrites Jesus will criticize in the next chapter who did things to draw attention to themselves. We are to be salt and light and to do good works in such a way that attention is drawn to Jesus and not to us.
Jesus said that if you are His disciple, you are salt and light in this world. Are you adding an enhancing flavor to the world, bringing out and preserving the God-created goodness, or have you lost your saltiness? Are you shining forth the light of Christ, or are you hiding the light?

1 Comments:

Blogger Pastor Parato said...

Apparently, I forgot to turn off the recorder. That meant the file ended up being 8 hours long--too long to upload in the editing program without it taking a couple of days, so it was far easier to delete that huge file and paste the manuscript!

April 6, 2011 at 11:45 AM

 

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