Grab your Bible, and let’s go deeper into Matthew 5.
Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
First and foremost, we need to see Jesus in the passage! I want us to see how important and central Jesus is in this passage. You might say, “But Jesus doesn’t refer to Himself here.” But He does. He says that you and I are like a lamp that is to shine our light unto the world. Realize, a lamp can only hold light. Jesus Christ Himself is the light of the world, and you only shine light when you are lit by Him!
Jesus says in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world.” He is saying, “I am true hope and direction.” Nothing else can do this in our lives like Jesus. He is the light. In a dark room, the chair cannot show you the light, but the light can show you the chair.
The light of Christ is the ultimate reality. Jesus is the only one making all things new by changing the way we see everything.
Jesus also said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” When you and I were dead in utter spiritual darkness because of our sin, the light of Christ became life to us! Jesus is life. He is the life everyone is desperate for.
The good news is this: “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us (or transferred us) into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).
Praise God that for those who trust in Him alone, Jesus took on our deepest darkness and forgave us all our sins.
I was talking with a friend recently who was really feeling the utter despair of stumbling around in the darkness, and the best counsel I could tell him was, “Stop trying to navigate the darkness by your own power. Run to Him who is the light. Let Him illuminate you by His mighty power.”
For those who are saved by Jesus, we are possessors of the light. The question often asked is, “Why doesn’t God just remove us from the darkness all together?” The answer is God has called us to be the lamp stand for the Light of Christ so that those He still intends to save will be brought in. He has called us to be a city on a hill, to shine the light of Christ bright into the darkness because we have family whom God is still preparing to enter His gates.
We must embrace the privilege it is to be called and empowered to shine bright--to cast preserving salt on this decaying society for God’s glory and others’ eternal good.
As Jesus gave His speech on the mount that day, He was talking about what life in the Kingdom looks like. In this passage, Jesus is showing us what happens when you and I testify of Christ to those in our path--when we live out our call to be salt and light.
Two realities that should play out:
1. Salt and light expose decay and darkness.
There is a reason why those who are not believers in Christ often pull away in our presence: Because we are so very different then they are. In Christ, you are full of light, which is the very opposite of darkness. This is not because you are better than them; it is because Jesus has taken a hold of your life. Now, the problem is in a world where our sin causes us to want to be accepted by everyone, we can value man’s acceptance more than our responsibility to let Christ shine through us, which will mean we are different.
Understand this: You can’t be bright in your testimony for Christ and at the same time blend into people’s lives who live in the darkness. The reality is you can love them and be around them, but you should stand out like a sore thumb. Understand, this is not a bad thing; this is God’s design. This is how He brings hope—brings life!
What we have to realize is we don’t act or talk or live differently because we are better than them. That is religion. That is self-righteousness, and by it no one is saved.
We act and live differently by the grace of God, which is Christ in and through us. We are only who we are because of Jesus. Our testimony is to make much of Jesus!
You have to constantly remind yourself of this when interacting with non-believers who live in darkness. You have to constantly say, “On my own, I am no different. I am only different because of Christ. It is His light that shines in and through me. It is Jesus that these people need to see to have life.”
2. If you are salt and light, then you bring joy to people.
Salt is not just a preservative; it is a seasoning. It is a flavor enhancer. I love salt. My wife says I love it too much. But the truth is salt makes most food more enjoyable.
There is a dual effect when Christians live evangelistic lives. The first is the beauty that you show through your good deeds. The light you shine into dark places can and does cause push-back, which often equals very real persecution, making it hard and uncomfortable for those in the world to be around you.
The second effect is there is a joy that comes from a child of God—a light-bearer! This often means you are the one that makes that circle better. You are the joy of a particular group. You are the stability of the neighborhood. You are the glue in your family. You are the go-to person for help in your workplace. You are the one other club members want to lean on when in need.
A true child of God who is salty is always looking to help improve the situation you find yourself in, to make it taste better, and to allow others to see and taste and experience the joy of Christ who is at work in and through you.
Matthew 5:14 “A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”
Rural communities, like the one Jesus speaks about here, know how blinding darkness can be. Yet the glow of a city in the distance can give those living in the pitch-black of night a sense of direction and bearing.
In 2013, I took my new Road Glide to a Christian brother’s shop in Las Vegas. On my ride home, I was going through Mojave Desert at 11:00 p.m. I did not realize how secluded I felt until, all of the sudden, I came over a ridge and saw something that gave me a sudden feeling of longing: the lights of civilization. Before me was miles of red blinking lights. I was overwhelmed with a joy and an anticipation. This is the same feeling God gives to those to whom He is giving new birth in Christ. All of the sudden, they see through the darkness and the light of the city on a hill comes into view.
One of the ways people notice the light we hold is by seeing our good deeds! “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds” (Matthew 5:16).
The word, “good” here is Kalos, which means “beautiful.” The question is when people see your deeds, do they see the beauty of Christ; do they say, “Amazing”?
There is a feast we have come to know in life with God--a satisfaction in Him and a joy that compares to nothing else. If His selfless love is at work in us, we will not hoard this feast for ourselves, but will long to share it and expose others to it.
Jesus is pleading with us in this passage: “Do not put your light under a basket, but let it shine before men.” “Let your light shine before men” means we have to get out there!
Finally, pay attention to Christ’s words at the end of this verse: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).
God’s glory—worship of God—is the ultimate reason why we are called to be salt and light.
Is there a higher call we can be given? May those we come into contact with, one day, worship our Father in heaven.
Missions exists because worship doesn’t. So we must go into all the earth and shine bright the light of Jesus.