October 5, 2020
When I was Pastoring in Langley, BC, we had a little store front office right downtown. On one side of the office was the local pawn shop, on the other side was a Teriyaki restaurant and down on the corner was a high end Glamor Hair Salon. Now I would eat once a week at the Teriyaki place and occasionally get my hair cut at the Salon, and I was becoming a familiar face to the people working at these establishments. At the same time as a new church, we were looking to make a difference in the community by serving them. So we put together some serving teams whose sole purpose was to go out and bless our community in some tangible way. And my team was going to try to bless some of the businesses around the office. I remember that day pretty well. On that Saturday, my team went to these businesses to clean their toilets. Now I don’t remember much about going to the Teriyaki place or to the Pawn Shop, but when we went into the Hair Salon and cleaned their toilets, we became their heroes. Either they loved our audacity to get down and dirty in their washrooms, or they just couldn’t believe someone would care enough to do the worst job in the place. Either way, that day, by just spending 20 minutes cleaning, we made an impact in the lives of those hair stylists. That opened a door for the gospel. They started asking us about our church and our Jesus. No one came to faith in Jesus that day, but what we did by cleaning a few toilets showed them something of the God of grace.
Now, I’m not going to ask you to sign-up to go clean toilets today. But what I am going to do is remind you about one of the reasons God saved you by His grace. God saved you by His grace so you would become a peddler of grace in a world devoid of grace. Let me say this another way: God blessed you to be a blessing. God changed your life by the goodness of the gospel, so that now, others might experience the goodness of God through your life and praise His name.
How do I know this? Because that’s what Jesus taught His followers in the Sermon on the Mount. If you follow Jesus Christ, if you’ve been saved by the God’s grace, then you are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Jesus says your life and mine are to be lived in such a way as to give tangible evidence of the grace of God. So, if you brought your Bible today, I want to encourage you to find Matthew 5:13-16, where we are going to unpack how the gospel changes the way we live. How the gospel changes our lifestyle so that we live as agents of God’s grace in our world.
Now before I unpack this text, I want you to take special note of how Jesus sees you as His follower. Twice Jesus will say, “You are.” This is an emphatic use of the word “you.” For by doing this, Jesus is making it clear that he is speaking specifically to His followers. He’s directing theses truth to His disciples. So that each time he says, “You are” he is spelling out the characteristics that are to set us apart as His followers. The world does not have these characteristics. Only those who are changed by the gospel of grace will bear these unique traits. So, let’s look now at the first “you are.” 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.”
As a Christ follower Jesus uses the metaphor of salt to describe what makes you unique in our world today. I would say it this way: You Are A Special Seasoning in the world. You are the salt of the earth. So what happens is this. When God makes you a new creation in Christ, when He downloads the character of Christ in you, your life works like a seasoning. So that now wherever you live, you will season your world with the flavor of God’s grace. Think of it this way: One of my old friends used to live in Chicago. While he lived there, he went to a restaurant that claimed to serve the greatest steak in the country. And all they do in preparation of this steak is to use salt and pepper. And they deliver. It’s a great steak. But the one thing you never hear from a customer who savors the flavor of that steak, is “Wow, what great salt you used.” No, what you hear is this, “Wow, what a great steak this is!”
And that’s what Jesus is saying about our changed character as His Christ followers. God transforms us into the salt of the earth so we can create a craving for God by the grace that flows from our lives. In other words, God’s grace to us makes us a special seasoning that enhances the flavor of God in the world. When we are patient with frustrating people, when we a forgiving of those who are wrong, when we accept rather than reject, when we are helpful rather than indifferent, when we are generous rather than withholding, we season our world with grace. And when we are the salt of the earth in this way, we create a thirst for God.
But there’s a problem. Jesus says we can lose our distinctive flavor. We can diminish, or even loose our effectiveness. I’m going to address this in a few minutes, but first, let’s look at the second distinctive trait that comes from being changed by the gospel. Here’s the next, “You are” quality about you as a Christ follower. Jesus says, “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.
As a Christ follower Jesus now uses the metaphor of light to describe the influence of our lives in the world. As light, Jesus says this about your distinctive nature: You are a strategic spotlight! Here’s how that works: Whenever you do a work of grace to bless someone, your life shines a spotlight on God. Again, the attention is not on the spotlight, but on what the spotlight does. Think of it this way: Suppose you were to go to a museum today and were looking at these beautiful works of art, but you were having trouble seeing all the details and colors because someone forgot to turn on the spots that are positioned to draw out those unique colors and features in the art. Then the curator of the museum strolls into the viewing area and discovers the problem. He immediately apologizes and goes over and flips the switch. Now you look again at the art and you’re able to see all the wonderful details and beauty of the art. But no one says, “Wow, what a great spotlight” No, now you say, “Wow, what a great work of art!”
That’s what God makes us to be: we are His strategic spotlights changed by His grace set lose in the world to illuminate the God of grace! In other words, God’s changes us by His gospel to be a new kind of people – people who draw attention to the beauty, goodness, kindness, mercy and love of God in this world. So when we do a work of grace or mercy, people will respond in one of two ways. The skeptic, will ask, “Why are you doing this?” “What’s the catch?” “What do you want from me.” Or the seeker, she may respond with gratefulness, a sense of wonder, or even praise, because by your actions you’ve reflected something of the God of grace. By your works of grace you’ve shown them that the God of grace is real. That’s what Jesus says you are: You are the light of the world. Your life and mine is meant to draw attention, not to our glory – but to God’s glory.
But once again, Jesus points out a problem here: We are often tempted to NOT “let our little light shine.” We are tempted to dim our spotlight or not bring it out at all.
So Jesus reminds us in this Sermon on the Mount, that we have a responsibility to guard our lifestyle as Christ followers. We need to protect our unique flavor as salt of the earth. And we need to let our light shine, not on ourselves, but on God. So then, in order for us to be peddlers of grace who reveal the God of grace; we need to do a couple of things to protect our character. And the first thing we need to do is this:
We Need to Stay Salty! To be a peddler of grace we need to be aware that we can dilute the effectiveness of our God flavoring. Now, here’s a couple interesting facts about salt. Salt by itself is a stable compound. It cannot lose its saltiness. But when impurities are mixed in with salt, the salt becomes contaminated and then becomes useless, even dangerous. So for us to stay salty, we need to protect our salty nature. How are we to do this? Well, God’s Word reveals at least three things we can do to stay salty: And the first is perhaps the most important:
Keep yourself pure. God’s Word says, If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work. 2 Timothy 2:21 God uses clean vessels. And yet, as you well know, we live in a world that is determined to legitimatize every form of impurity. So we need to guard our eyes, our hearts, and our minds from the onslaught of sewage being thrown our way. We need to have guards on our computers. We need to monitor our television and movie intake. And we need to be careful not to compromise. When Becky and I first got married, we decided we would not watch R-rated movies. That was a standard we set for ourselves. But we were constantly being tempted to compromise our standard, by other Christians: “Oh it’s not that bad? It’s really a great story. There’s only one questionable scene.” So maybe we compromise, this one time, then another, then another. And then pretty soon, what we were once repulsed by, becomes acceptable. But God says, If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work. Keep yourself pure. Are you doing that? Or are you compromising your purity? Keep yourself pure, and God will use you. Now, that’ one way to stay salty. Here’s another:
Watch your attitude. Paul told the Philippians to Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become faultless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.Philippians 2:14-15 When we complain or argue we lose our effectiveness as salt. So complaining or arguing is not fitting for someone who has been changed by God’s grace… Now, isn’t that what’s become of our culture today. Everyone complains and argues just about everything today. There is so much contention in our culture today. Especially political contention. People are quick to tell you why they are against you. Such complaining is harsh, provoking, and allows no room for grace.
Think about grace with me for a moment. Grace is giving to one who is undeserving. That’s why being critical, harsh and argumentative has no place in the gracious nature of a Christ follower. Arguing and complaining pollute grace. Arguing and complaining contaminate our witness. A person who is full of grace is for you, not against you. You and I are going to find ourselves in the presence of people with some harsh opinions in the days ahead. So if you call yourself a Christ follower, remember you are now a holy one, a child of God, who has saved you by His grace. So the next time someone pushes your political button, remember who you are and watch your attitude, so that you don’t contaminate the grace in you. Watch your attitude, so that you’ll remain a faultless and pure child of God, who exudes the grace of God. That’s another way to stay salty. Here’s the third:
Grow in wisdom! Listen to how James says it: But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. James 3:17 The wisdom from above is our salt. It’s what makes us distinctive. It’s what gives us our unique flavor. In fact, the Sermon on the Mount is packed with wisdom from above. It’s in this Sermon that Jesus teaches us how our lives were meant to be lived. Look at the descriptive nature of wisdom and how it personifies grace: We are to be peace loving, gentle at ALL times, and willing to yield to others. We are to be full of mercy, showing no favoritism – not being two faced, but genuine in our relationships with one another. In other words, we are salt the salt of the earth when we are peace makers. We are salt the salt of the earth when we are gentle with those who are harsh. We are salt the salt of the earth when we give mercy rather than judgment. What Jesus is saying is that we are what the world needs – dispensers of God’s grace. So let’s keep ourselves pure. Let’s watch our attitudes and let’s download God’s wisdom so we can season our world with God flavoring. This is how the gospel is meant to change how we live in a world devoid of grace. We are to be the salt of the earth.
Of course, this is just the half of it. The other half is about shining the spotlight on God So how do we let our light shine?
By doing good works! Now this seems easy enough, but I find that sometimes we don’t know where to start or what to do. So let’s let God’s Word serve as a catalyst to steer us in the right direction. Here’s a great example from Paul’s instructions given to widows: No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. 1 Timothy 5:9-10. This is pretty ordinary stuff. God isn’t looking for us to do major projects, just ordinary works of grace for ordinary people. Doing laundry, loving children; inviting your neighbor for dinner, doing the menial tasks that need to get done. To me, it sounds like serving your neighbor – giving a helping hand and not expecting anything in return. It’s being an instrument of grace. And we can all do that.
But maybe that’s not where you need to start. Maybe where you need to start being God’s spotlight is By Making Yourself Available. Proverbs 3:27 says, Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Most of us can do ordinary good works for ordinary people. That’s not the issue. No, the issue can simply be that we’ve made ourselves too busy to be available to serve.
Can you imagine what a difference you could make for God if you just made yourself a bit more available? I saw a great quote this week. It went something like this: Everyday, spend time with Jesus, find one thing to be thankful for, and do one act of kindness for a neighbor. Can you imagine if we all did that? For some of you, you’ve got this down. It’s already your lifestyle. You love spending time with Jesus, you are always thankful and looking for ways to serve. You available. But when Jesus says that people don’t light a lamp and put it under a bowl, he’s reminding us of a truth we sometimes forget: our lives are meant to shine for Jesus! So let me challenge you. If you want a good take away from the message today: write this down: Everyday, spend time with Jesus, find one thing to be thankful for, and do one act of kindness for a neighbor. Try it for a week. See what happens.
Alright, there’s one final way we can get our light shining for Jesus, and that is this: By Expanding Your Relationships Jesus said, And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. Luke 6:33 Then a few verses later he says, But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.Luke 6:35-36 Who needs to see the grace and mercy of God more than anyone in our world? The ungrateful and wicked. Who needs love more than anyone in the world? Our enemies. The people you struggle with, the people who irritate you, aggravate you, frustrate you. It’s easy to be kind and generous to a friend; but try being generous to someone who is ungrateful. Maybe the reason they’re that way, is because no one has ever been generous to them, no one has ever been kind to them. Let me remind you – that many times God puts difficult people in our lives – not to test our patience – but so we can shine the spotlight of God’s grace in their lives. Remember, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.” And the way you shine your light is by peddling grace to people who need grace! Because that’s what God did for you, when He saved you.
The Point Jesus is making here is simple: God saved you by grace so that your life might bring glory to Him when you live by grace. Our world – it has enough judges, critics, complainers, arguers, haters and condemners. But Jesus says, “you are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.”
- So let’s go season our neighbors with grace flavored living so we might create a craving for God’s grace.
- And let’s go shine the spotlight of grace to those who rarely ever see it, so they might say, “What a great God.”
- This is how we reveal that the gospel has changed our lives – when we live as peddlers of grace in a world devoid of grace.