Salt & Light, 6 September 2020

Salt & Light
Matthew 5:13-16

Big Idea: Jesus follows the beatitudes with a vision for the Church to be salt and light to our sinful world.

Last Sunday we finished our series on the Beatitudes, the blessings announced by Jesus in the fifth chapter of Matthew. Today we’re going to look at the next four verses which continue his famous Sermon on the Mount, a message delivered on a hill near the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus offers a vision for us—his followers—and in doing so an invitation to participate in his redemption and renewal of all things.

Our world is in trouble. I know, that’s hardly news! In fact, it has been in trouble since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden thousands of years ago. You don’t need the Internet or even a TV to know sin is rampant, our enemy satan is on the move, and we see evidence daily of his schemes to steal, kill, and destroy.

At the same time, God is on the move, too. Chronicles of Narnia fans know Aslan is on the move! We’ve been enlisted in God’s army to be soldiers of love, makers of peace, examples of joy, mediators of mercy, and agents of redemption.

To refresh our memories of what Jesus has spoken, here’s a review of the beatitudes from the New Living Translation:

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are humble,
for they will inherit the whole earth.
6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
for they will be satisfied.
7 God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
for they will see God.
9 God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. (Matthew 5:3-10)

Remember, these are not instructions to follow, but announcements of the reality of the Kingdom of God, now and in the future. After elaborating on the blessing that comes from persecution, Jesus says,

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. (Matthew 5:13)

What’s the first thing you think of when salt is mentioned? French fries? Icy roads in the winter? Ocean water in your mouth? A doctor’s orders to reduce it in your diet?

Salt is a necessary ingredient in life. It serves many purposes, but in the context of this text,
the purpose of salt is preserving.

Imagine a world without freezers, refrigerators, or even dry ice. If you’ve ever been to the Middle East, you know natural ice is hard to find! If you purchased a piece of meat at the market, it would not last long in the hot sun. The best way to ensure it didn’t go bad was to use salt. The purpose wasn’t to melt snow or even to make food taste better, but rather to keep it from spoiling.

Our world is spoiling. It is decaying. We hear about death, destruction, and despair daily. We are on a mission from God to preserve God beautiful creation. This includes the physical planet, yes, but also the message and mission of Jesus…seeking and saving the lost, the renewal of all things, sharing good news in word and deed, representing God and embodying His goodness, holiness, grace, and justice in the world.

Salt is useless in the salt shaker.

My grandma used to collect salt and pepper shakers. They were fun to look at, especially a pair of pigs with magnetic noses that stuck together. I loved that as a kid.

While salt shakers may be decorative, their real value is what they contain…salt. Salt itself is useless unless it is distributed, unless it exits the shaker and makes contact with meat or whatever it is preserving.

When Jesus said we are the salt of the earth, the original language seems to indicate he was speaking of the literal earth, the land of Israel. His mission included the Jewish people. Jesus was a Jewish rabbi. Part of our mission is to reach out to the Jews and help them see Jesus as Messiah. They don’t have to give up their Jewishness, but rather embrace Yeshua—Jesus—as LORD. The Messianic Jewish movement that resurfaced about fifty years ago is actively becoming salt among the people of Israel and continuing the mission of Christ.

Now Jesus turns his attention to light.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 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. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

The purpose of light is visibility. Everything is invisible in total darkness, but light shines brightest in the dark.

We all understand this. The reason we turn off the lights in a movie theater is to make the light of the film more visible. I’ve never been to a drive-in movie theater at noon!

Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12). He declared,

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

In the next chapter of John, he says it again.

While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:5)

When predicting his own death,

Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them. (John 12:35-36)

A few verses later Jesus said,

I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. (John 12:46)

Since Adam and Eve at the fruit, this world has been in a state of darkness. It desperately needs light. The Bible and ancient world saw light as related to truth, knowledge, revelation, and love. It describes the good things we do. You might know John 3:16, but listen to what follows:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. (John 3:16-21)

Jesus is the light of the world. When we follow him, when we re-present him, we offer light in the darkness. I like to say that we are called to be the moon. I’ve often been amazed at the brightness of the moon on a clear night. It not only lights up the sky, it lights up the earth! A full moon away from the electric lights of a city is especially vibrant. In some instances, you don’t even need a flashlight!

We are not the light, in and of ourselves. We shine the light of Jesus. We reflect the light. We are containers of the light as the Holy Spirit dwells within us. I like to think of us as the moon because the closer the moon is to the light and the more focused and aligned, the brighter it will shine.

If you and I are close to Jesus, we will shine brightly. Our lives will pierce the darkness. The enemy won’t stand a chance!

St. John of the Cross, a 16th century Spanish priest and poet, wrote about light and darkness. He pictured our physical bodies as stained-glass windows through which the interior presence of God shines…Christ in us, the hope of glory. His divine light appears through our lives. Jesus said, “When you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” In a similar way, followers of Jesus are the temple of God where He dwells on earth. We are tabernacles of the living God. Where is God? Here! What a truly awesome thought!

Jesus tells his disciples, “You are the light of the world.” He is commissioning them, giving them an assignment, inviting them into his mission. The word “world” speaks of the Gentiles. Followers of Jesus are to be salt and light…reaching Jews and Gentiles.


There are warnings in both the passage on salt and that of light. Saltless salt is thrown out. It is “road dust” as John Stott called it. Our salt, sodium chloride, does not lose its saltiness, but first-century Palestinian salt could.

Covered lights have no value, either.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 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. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

So What?

We are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world. That’s what it means to follow Jesus, to participate in his mission, to be his agents of reconciliation and redemption. It makes me so sad when I hear Christians talk about how they’re just waiting for Jesus to return when, in fact, he may be waiting for us to get busy, to be salt, to shine. We’re on a mission from God, love crusade to seek and save the lost, to proclaim good news, to love others, to extend grace, and to deliver shalom.

All of the blessings in the beatitudes were a prelude to the assignment he has given us to be salt and light.

Are you?

Maybe you are salt that likes to stay in the salt shaker. It may be comfortable, but salt is useless until it is poured out.

Maybe you’ve covered your light. You’ve been ashamed of Jesus, perhaps fearful of the persecution we discussed last Sunday. Or maybe you’re simply like those lamps at the home improvement store, a huge collection of lights with no real purpose. Lights need to be in places where it’s dark. We are not to be of the world, but we need to be in it. We need to get to know our neighbors. We need to interact with co-workers and classmates. We can’t constantly surround ourselves with Christians.

I confess I’m not the best at this. Working at a church is an occupational hazard for evangelism! That’s why we need one another. I’m here to equip you, to charge up your batteries so your light can shine brightly this week.

Family, our world desperately needs salt and light. They need to experience Jesus in word and deed in our lives. They’re never going to find what they’re looking for in technology, politics, business, or entertainment. The world needs Jesus, and we are his agents. We must impact other people for His glory.

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)

The Church doesn’t have a mission. God’s mission has a Church! That’s us! Let’s be salt. Let’s shine the light of Jesus. Let’s be faithful and obedient in following Jesus. The world will be better for it…and so will we.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

God Is Light, 1 John 1, 12 April 2015

Big Idea: God is light and we are walk with Him.

Author: John writing on behalf of the Apostles

Audience: the early Church

Date: 85-90 AD


We examined John’s gospel.
We examined John’s second and third letters.
We have not examined John’s vision much, a book called Revelation.


John is one of Jesus’ three best friends. He wrote the gospel of John. His purpose in writing was clear:

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)

The gospel of John was written around 65 AD, maybe 75-80 AD. Perhaps twenty years or so have passed and we come to 1 John.This is commonly regarded as a letter or epistle, but the form is more like a homily, like a sermon. Some have called it a “letter-essay.”

Imagine being an early follower of Jesus. Maybe you actually encountered him or had friends who witnessed a miracle or even the crucifixion. This new movement called The Way, now known as Christianity, is involving both Jews and Gentiles, two vastly opposing groups. New Christians were being expelled from the synagogues, some of whose colleagues denied Jesus as Messiah and returned to the synagogue. They needed encouragement. Christianity was a startup religion in the shadow of an established, powerful Judaism. It was bold and risky to follow Jesus.

There were other challenges for early believers beyond social and religious rejection. Heresy was growing, including idolatry and the emergence of false prophets.

Docetists believed Jesus was divine but never human.

Cerinthians believed the Christ-Spirit merely came on Jesus but He was not the Christ.

Some Gnostics believed they could not commit real sins.

The real challenge was “secessionists,” people who were Christians but withdrew from the community. John offers two ways to test the spirits: a moral-ethical test (obedience to the commandments) and a faith test (proper view of Jesus).

Who is Jesus? Last month we looked at our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer and Coming King. He is fully God yet fully human. Many claim to believe in Jesus, but what do they believe?

We often get excited when someone says they believe in God. But what God? What do they believe? Jesus’ half-brother said

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. (James 2:19)

Even demons believe in Jesus…but they do not follow Him as LORD. That’s huge.

It’s easy to romanticize the early church, being in the presence of the likes of Peter, Paul, and John. Yet it was a messy time. There were antichrists, gossip, heresy, division, church splits…some things never change! John addressed this letter to one community, but it was probably intended to be shared with the other churches.

2 John was likely written soon after, a book with warnings about false teachers.

The purpose of this writing is expressed in the fifth and final chapter.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13)

This is written to believers in Jesus to encourage them and assure them of their salvation.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. (1 John 1:1)

This may refer to creation, but more likely John is speaking of his eyewitness relationship with Jesus, the beginning of the gospel proclamation. He saw and touched Jesus. He is not a historian writing about an ancient figure, but rather a biographer describing his personal friend.

Some believed Jesus was God but not human.
Some believed Jesus was human but not God.

John touched Jesus. He wasn’t a ghost or vision or a divine apparition like Greek gods.
John witnessed the crucifixion and saw the risen Jesus.

We see echoes in this verse of John 1:1.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

Jesus is the Word. Jesus is God.

The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. (1 John 1:2-4)

Jesus appeared. This is a reference to the Incarnation, God becoming one of us.

John’s message is passionate. He proclaims Jesus! Why? Fellowship and joy.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7)

Light and darkness was a common image of contrast. Imagine life without electricity. Fire (from the sun or a flame) was the only source of light. Light and darkness is the perfect contrast between sin and righteousness. The Old Testament condemned the mixing of light and darkness, right and wrong. God is light.

Peter also spoke of the contrast between light and darkness, sin and righteousness.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)

The Old Testament described obedience as walking.

The Old Testament spoke of sacrificial blood as purifying for sins.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

Some believed they had become sinless…of their sins were not sinful.

Notice how John essentially repeats his message about sinlessness…and places one of the most beautiful verses in the entire Bible right in the middle.

God required confession and repentance.

So What?

First and foremost, we are all sinners.

Second, we need Jesus. Jesus is God. Jesus is human. Jesus is real. Jesus is alive!

Third, we can experience forgiveness and purification. Hallelujah!

Fourth, we are to walk in the light. We are to obey.

Fifth, if we obey, we have fellowship with one another.

The Moon

The moon contains no light, yet it beautifully reflects the sun so brightly that it illuminates our night skies.

We are not the light. Jesus is the light. We are the moon. We reflect the light…if we walk in the light.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Asleep In The Light: Shine! 13 March 2011

Big Idea

Jesus is the light of the world. He told us that we are now the light of the world, reflecting His light to our dark world as the moon shines at night.


What in the world is the Church?

- Body
- Bride
- Spiritual Temple
- Family

The “church” is a movement of changed lives.

I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. - Matthew 16:18b

The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
- Revelation 1:20

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 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. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. - Matthew 5:14-16

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” - Matthew 28:18-20

So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. - Acts 1:6-9

Your business is not the end times; your business is the now times—the mission to seek and save the lost.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. - Isaiah 9:2

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life — in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. - Philippians 2:14-16

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. - Revelation 2:4-5

You can listen to the podcast here.