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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10:45am Service, 2005-01-16

Text: Matthew 5:13-16

Our messages for this first quarter are based on our church theme for this year which is 'Making Him Known.' This theme logically follows the church theme that we had last year, which was 'That I may know Him.' Making Him Known reminds us of the Church's mandate to make Christ known to the world. It reminds us to be outward looking. 

And I think that this theme is a very timely one for us, seeing how urgent the need is for the Gospel of Christ to reach millions of perishing souls now. Every time we hear of a terrible disaster like the earthquake and tsunami in Asia where thousands of lives are lost, let us realize that the losses are actually much greater than what we see and hear on the news. For what we do not see and hear is revealed to us by the Word of God - that it means that thousands of unsaved souls have forever lost any opportunity to hear the Gospel of Christ and be saved unto eternal life. 

Some of those who perished may have heard the Gospel and received Christ- they have eternal life. But for the vast majority who perished, there is absolutely no hope left. Hebrews 9:27 tells us, 'And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.' God's Word makes it clear that there is no second chance or opportunity for salvation after death. There is only God's judgment. And the judgment of the unsaved will only bring them eternal death. 

Dearly beloved, what should we do when we are confronted with this sobering truth? There is only one appropriate response, and that is, to make every effort we possibly can right now to reach the unsaved who are still living, with the Gospel of Christ, before death makes salvation utterly impossible for them. The vision we have for our church is that every one of us will actively share the Gospel of Christ with our unsaved friends and loved ones, and even with the people that we happen to meet in our daily life - our neighbours, our colleagues and classmates and bring them to Christ. If only all of us will take this as an urgent matter and commit ourselves to do personal evangelism, I believe that this vision can be achieved. 

This morning's message will make us realize that this is the role that God has given to every Christian - Making Him Known. Let us look at what Jesus Himself taught about the Christian's role in this world in Matthew 5:13-16.

This passage is part of a long teaching session that Jesus had with His disciples on a mount. Hence it is called, 'The Sermon on the Mount.' This sermon begins at chapter 5 and ends at the end of chapter 7. Jesus was truly a profound Teacher. When He taught spiritual lessons, He was able to captivate crowds of people for hours. Mary of Bethany loved to spent much time sitting at His feet and listening to Him. When the Samaritan woman at the well heard Him teach, she went to town to call others to come and hear Him. Why? Well one reason is that He often made use of familiar objects to make spiritual truths easy to understand - e.g. birds of the air, lilies of the field, bread, and mustard seed. In our passage we are see Him using two things that are familiar to every one: Salt and Light. These are used to teach us what we who are Christians ought to be. Firstly Christ wants you to know that:

I. You Are the Salt of the Earth (v.13)

In recent decades there has been a lot of bad reports about salt - that it is not good for your health. We all know that a diet that is high in sodium chloride can result in hypertension, obesity, and heart disease. Some of us here have probably had to cut down on our salt intake because of this. But in the ancient world salt was highly valued by men. The Roman Historian Pliny said, 'Nothing is more useful than salt and sunshine.' Do you know where the word 'salary' which we use for our monthly income actually comes from? It comes from the Roman word 'salarium' which means money given to a Roman soldier to buy salt'. A good worker was described as being 'worth his salt.'

Salt was in great demand in ancient times primarly because of its use in food preparation and cooking. And just as food is flat and tasteless without salt, so our Lord tells us that, without a 'salty' quality, a Christian is an 'insipid disciple.' Let us now learn two things that are true of such a person: 

A. The Christian who is not salty has forfeited his moral influence

'but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?' (v.13) The word 'savour' here means 'taste' or 'flavour.' Salt is a seasoning which brings out the natural taste or flavour of food. Do you know that the word 'salad' is derived from salt? This is because the earliest form of salad dressing was simply adding salt to vegetables! Actually the word 'sauce' (e.g. tomato sauce, soya sauce, etc) is also derived from the Latin word for salt. Another word derived from salt is 'salami' the large sausage used in pizzas - You can probably guess why it had such a name (If you are on a low salt diet, now you know what you should avoid!)

In the same way that salt provides good taste or flavour to your food, we as Christians should provide a good influence upon the world. Our lives should make a difference in the lives of the people we come into close contact with, to influence them for the better. The impact of our life on them should in some way help to bring them nearer to the knowledge of truth, and closer to God. Salt also makes people thirsty. Our lives should similarly create a thirst in the people we meet for the Water of life. 

I have heard testimonies of how a community was wonderfully transformed by the presence of just one salty Christian. Such was the testimony of a Scotsman by the name of John Geddie, who came to an island in Melanesia known today at Vanuatu. After he died, a tablet was placed in the church he planted with these words: 'In memory of John Geddie, D.D., born in Scotland, 1815, minister in Prince Edward Island seven years, Missionary sent from Nova Scotia to Aneiteum for twenty-four years. When he landed in 1848, there were no Christians here, and when he left in 1872 there were no heathen." How wonderful it would be if there are more salty Christians like him, whose lives have a transforming influence upon the communities they are in. Does your life have a good savour that leads sinners to the Saviour?

Besides being a seasoning, salt is also used as a preservative. E.g. salted fish, salted vegetables (kiam chye). The Egyptians soaked dead bodies in salt for days in the process of mummifying them, and some have been preserved for thousands of years! Salt retards decay and kills infection. It is actually a very good antiseptic, and was used by physicians in ancient times to keep wounds from getting infected. That is why we have the expression 'to rub salt into a wound.' 

In the same way that salt counteracts decay and infection, Christians should live in a way that will counteract the rottenness of sin in our world. Do you know that many vices of ancient times have been outlawed primarily because of Christians who campaigned against them? E.g. William Wilberforce (1759-1833) strenuously campaigned for the abolition of slavery in the 19th century and the Emancipation Bill abolishing slavery in England became law only one month after Wilberforce died. Christian missionaries in China helped to abolish foot-binding of women. Christians in India were an influence that helped to remove the inhuman practice of suttee - immolation of widows.

In our days, Christians need to provide society with such an influence against evil. E.g. the tide of gambling that will surely come when a casino is built. The gay movement is trying hard to make their lifestyle accepted and promoted in Singapore. Many are trying to get the authorities to relax censorship rules further. Should Christians do nothing and just allow them to push their agenda through? There are times when we need to speak up in a public forum to resist the tide of evil.

If we are not salty Christianst, exerting a seasoning effect upon the world we live in for good or to be a preservative of the world against evil, we end up not only forfeiting our moral influence, but we would also have failed in our witness. This brings us to the latter part of Matthew 5:13.

B. The Christian who is not salty has failed in his Christian witness 

'It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men.' Strictly speaking, there is no way that salt can lose its saltiness. Sodium choride will always have the properties of sodium chloride. Therefore when something that is supposed to be salt is not salty at all, it cannot be real salt. It is just sand, which has no purpose other than to be trodden underfoot. 

What this means is that a Christian whose life is not a good influence is not really a disciple of Christ but merely a pretender. Like white sand, he or she may resemble the real thing but lack the quality of saltiness. And he should ask himself if he is truly saved or not.

Dearly beloved, these words from Matthew 5:13 should be taken as a strong warning to all of us. We should ask if we have lost our saltiness and become insipid, useless disciples. Have you become good for nothing (with regard to Making Christ known) and worthy only to be cast out and trodden under foot? 

If you are convicted that this is true of you, do please something about it. Do what you need to do to regain your saltiness! Confess any sins that have drained away your spiritual vitality, and ask for the Holy Spirit's power to be a fruit-bearing Christian. Only then can you make a difference for Christ in this world. Besides being a salty Christian, we should also be shining Christians.

II. You are the Light of the World (vv.14-16)

This is given in the rest of our passage, where we see our Lord Jesus using another thing that is just as familiar to us as salt: Light. Light was the very first thing God created on the first day 'God said, Let there be light, and there was light' (Genesis 1:3). Light is very useful to us because it helps us to see the things around us. Imagine what it would be like there was no light at all in this hall: we would all be in darkness, and would find it very difficult to move around. We would also not feel very safe, because we might not see a hole in the ground and would fall right into it. Many times crimes are committed under the cover of darkness. Hence light is an apt representation for holiness, and darkness is an apt representation for sin. It is in this sense that 1 John 1:5 tells us that 'God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.'

Now, holiness and sin are not the only contrasting concepts that light and darkness can represent. Other contrasting pairs associated with light and darkness include: Good (light) versus Evil (darkness); Knowledge (light) versus Ignorance (darkness) - e.g. 'to keep someone in the dark,' Truth (Light) versus Falsehood (darkness) - e.g. when we speak of being 'illumined' or 'enlightened.' Clarity (light) versuse Confusion (darkness). E.g. 'lucid' which means 'clear.' Overall, we can see light is used to represent the things that are good and desirable while its counterpart, darkness, is used to represent things that are bad, undesirable and even feared. 

In the same way that we shun darkness and welcome light, those who live in a world that is filled with darkness should welcome the Christian who shines forth as a light. The shining life of a true born-again Christian can work its own wonders in a lost world. According to Jesus, such a shining life can accomplish at least three things: Firstly,

A. The Christian who Shines Exhibits the Reality of His Faith in Christ (vv. 14,15) 

"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid" A city that is located on a hill is very prominent and can be seen for miles around. As believers we must have a high visibility. We cannot maintain a low profile and hide our light from the world. 

But there are some people today who are just like that. They hear the Gospel, and recognise that it is the truth and the salvation they need. They then commit themselves to believing in Christ, but they do not want to confess Him before the world. They do not want to be baptised, because baptism constitutes a public confession of faith in Christ. They say that their faith is a very personal matter between them and God alonse, and so no one needs to know that they are Christians. They just want to remain 'secret believers'. To preserve the secrecy of their belief, some may even refrain from coming to church regularly, and from Christian fellowship meetings and Bible study. And when they have meals together with others in a public place, you won't see them bowing their heads to say grace. They may give thanks silently while taking their first spoonful of food. If a person really wants nobody to find out that He is a Christian, he will soon have to compromise his faith. To keep himself from being found out he is forced to live under false pretences all the time, living in the same manner as all the unbelievers around him.

Let us understand that a Christian is meant to be a witness to Jesus Christ. He is not ashamed to be called a 'Christian' because by this, the world will associate him with Christ, and he will fulfill his God-given role of being a witness to Him. But how can we fulfill our role as witnesses if we are afraid to bear His name? 

In Matthew 5:14,15 Jesus said, 'Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel,' A secret believer is like a lighted candle that is placed under a bushel. What use does it have? No one can see the light and benefit from it. It might as well just be extinguished! 

In the same way, a Christian who cannot fulfill his role of making Christ known in some way may as well not be a Christian at all. He will have to remain barren all his life, and he cannot win a single soul to Christ! Now that we have seen how being a shining light in the world exhibits the reality of one's faith in Christ, let us see the second thing it accomplishes:

B. The Christian who Shines Fulfills What God requires of Him (v.16a)

This imperative requirement is stated in v.16a: 'Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works' This is a command, similar to the one issued by God when he created light: 'Let there be light'! (Genesis 1:3). It is therefore not an option, but a command we must obey. There are also two other verses where the same imperative requirement to shine is spelled out: Ephesians 5:8 'For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:' Philippians 2:15 'That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.' Let us therefore do all we can to shine the light brightly.

Now there are some who believe that it is quite wrong or even sinful to shine in order to exhibit one's good works publicly, because of what Jesus said in Matthew 6:1-4 'Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.'

How do we harmonise this command with the command to "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works"? By looking at the difference in motives for doing the good works. The command of Matthew 6:1-4 applies to good works that are done for self-glory, in order to obtain the praises of men ('He is a very devoted Christian.') 

But the command of Matthew 5:14-16 applies to good works that are not done for self at all, but for the sake of others and most of all, to glorify God. Thus we must always be careful about our motives for doing good. Your aim in being a shining light is to draw attention not to yourself, but to God. This is stated in the latter part of v.16 'and glorify your Father which is in heaven.'

This also means that we have to be selective in what we choose to do before men. There are some things which are best done in secret, away from public view - e.g. QT, prayer, giving to God (not revealing the amount to anyone). But there are certain things which should not be done in secret, but also not consciously to be seen by men - e.g. acts of love for people around you, showing selfless concern for those in need, witnessing to friends and loved ones. And when we do these things in the right manner and with the right motives, the Lord will be glorified. This brings us to the third thing you can accomplish by being a shining light:

C. The Christian who Shines Brings forth Illustrious Results (v.16b)

When people see that your compassionate acts of love are genuine and selfless, they will be led to praise God for His love and grace. There are several instances where God was glorified through acts like these: E.g. When a Roman centurion at the scene of the crucifixion of Christ saw the way that He died on the cross, Luke 23:47 tells us that 'he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.' And when non-believers are led to glorify God through want they can see in the lives of God's people, they may also be saved from eternal death! 

There are times I have heard a new believer testify that what made him come to know Christ is that he saw something wonderfully different in the life of a Christian friend he knew. This Christian's life was full of goodness and righteousness. He was always honest and sincere, someone reliable, responsible, and loving. And the light that shone in this Christian's life was the light that guided him to find salvation in Christ, the true Light of the World. Remember, that we are only tiny little lights compared to Jesus Christ who is the Great Light of the World. The brightest light of all is the light of Jesus, who said in John 8:12 - 'I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.' 

This morning you should perhaps ask yourself whether your own life is like that. Can people see the light shining brightly in your life - the light that will eventually lead them to know Christ, the great Light of the world? Has someone ever told you that what brought him to Christ was the light that shone in your life? If we have truly been saved and love the Lord, let us do our very best henceforth to walk as children of light. In that way, we can really make Him known.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25