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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 8am & 11am service, 2017-08-20

Text: Matthew 5:13

Just before our Lord Jesus ascended up to heaven, He commissioned His disciples to be His witnesses and make disciples of all nations beginning in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8). Since then, the Gospel Christ has been making a good impact and lasting on the world through the witness of believers in every generation. Now it is our Christian responsibility to make a good impact on others both by our words and our conduct so that they will be drawn to Christ. Unfortunately this is one area that many find difficult to do faithfully. The question we need to ask is: Why are we not as impactful for Christ as we should be?

One likely reason is our reluctance to go beyond our comfort zone. Usually within three years of becoming a Christian most believers have hardly any friends who are unbelievers. We all develop friendships with Christians and we naturally prefer to spend time to fellowship with them. But this means that we would have less and less contact with those who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ. Another reason is that we fear that people will be offended if our Christian influence is too strong. We fear that they may regard us as religious freaks who are too strict and conservative for them. How do we overcome this fear? And how do we overcome our reluctance to go beyond our comfort zone?

One verse of Scripture that can help us to do this is Matthew 5:13. Here Jesus taught His disciples about the important role that we have in this world by using a common object that everyone is very familiar with: Salt. 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 taking too much salt in your diet can result in hypertension, obesity, and heart disease. Some of us here have probably been told to cut down on our salt intake because of this.

But salt was an important commodity in Old Testament times. It was a symbol of God’s covenant with Israel. According to Leviticus 2:13 every offering that was made at the Temple had to be offered with salt. Salt has also been a very useful commodity since ancient times. The Roman Historian Pliny said, “Nothing is more useful than salt and sunshine.”In fact, salt is just as useful as the salary you receive every month. How is this so? The word ‘salary’ comes from the Latin word ‘salarium’ which means salt given to a soldier as his wages. Yes, in the earliest times of the Roman Empire, soldiers were actually paid in salt. This gave rise to the expression, “He is worth his salt.” (Imagine what it was like coming home each month carrying bags and bags of salt to provide for your family’s needs. You’d better pray hard that it doesn’t rain on your way home!)

Salt has been in demand since ancient times primarily because of its use in food preparation and cooking. And so, just as food is tasteless without salt, our Lord tells us that if we are not salty we lose our impact as Christians. He says this in Matthew 5:13. Let us turn our Bibles now to this verse and read it together: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden underfoot of men.” There are three lessons on being impactful that we can learn from what Jesus taught in this verse.

1. We Have the Potential to Make a Good Impact on Others.

This impact is represented by the word ‘savour’ which means ‘taste’ or ‘flavour.’ Salt is a useful seasoning which gives good flavour to food. And that makes it useful to those of us who love to eat. Do you know where the word ‘salad comes from? It comes from the Latin word ‘salata’ which means ‘salted’? This is because the earliest form of salad dressing was to simply add some salt to the vegetables!

Some of us like to dip our food in sauce, be it tomato sauce or chili sauce or soy sauce. The word ‘sauce’ actually comes from an old French word which means ‘salted.’ Another word derived from salt is salami, the large slices of sausage used in pizzas – You can probably guess why it has such a name.

In the same way that salt has the potential to make our food taste good, we as Christians have the unique potential to make a very positive impact on the world. This potential comes through our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and His work in and through our lives. As Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20– “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” It is only through Christ that we can produce all those qualities which we had learned about in the Beatitudes (vv.3-9) over the last 7 weeks. Without Christ it is impossible for us to be  poor in spirit, mourning for our sins, meek, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, loyal in the midst of persecution, and seeking to make peace. These beatitudes become ours only as we grow in our walk with the Lord Jesus. Thus, our savour as salt actually comes from Christ. Christ is the One who gives us all the saltiness that we need in order to make a good, positive impact on others.

The problem however, is that while we have great potential to make such an impact, it is not being used as it should. Salt can never make your food taste good as long as it remains inside the salt-shaker. It must first be sprinkled out of the salt-shaker and onto your food before you can enjoy its benefits. Similarly, if we all keep to ourselves within the four walls of our church all the time, then all the potential that we have to make an impact on the world will never be used. This brings us now to the second lesson that this verse teaches us:

2. We Need to Go into the World to Make a Good Impact on Others.

I want you to notice that Jesus said, “Ye are the salt of the earth.”  And what He says in the next verse shows us exactly what He meant here by ‘the earth’ – “Ye are the light of the world.” (v.14) Jesus is referring to the unique role that He has given to all believers in this world. We are have a God-given role as the salt of the earth, and we must always be consciously fulfilling this role. Why is this so important? It is because the whole world is in dire need of hope. And that hope can only be found in Christ. We who have found hope in Christ must therefore bring Him out to the world. So let us not be afraid to confess Christ before the world.

You should not think that your faith in Christ is only a private and personal matter between you and God alone. It is not good to keep your faith under wraps all the time. If you really do not want anybody to know that you are a Christian, then you will have to compromise your faith sooner or later. You will have to live under false pretenses all the time, and become fully conformed to the world. That’s not what Christians are meant to be.

To be a Christian is to be a witness for Jesus Christ. That’s what you are. This is implied by one particular characteristic of salt: It tends to make people feel thirsty. Eat some salted peanuts or potato chips and soon you will be looking for something to drink. Similarly, our lives should create a thirst for Christ in the people we meet. Christ is the spring of Living Water. Christ has said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.” (John 7:37).

I hope that you can see from all this, that you should never be ashamed to let others know that you are a Christian. If you have believed in Christ but have not been baptized yet, please get baptized soon! Join our next catechism class in January to prepare for Easter baptism, and testify to the world boldly that you belong to Christ!

And for those who are baptized Christians, your role as salt of the earth means that you must not be ashamed to let others see Jesus in you. Some former unbelievers have testified that what really encouraged them to come to Christ for salvation was not some powerful gospel sermon that they heard in church. What really brought them to salvation in Christ was the change they could see in the life of a believer.

A song written by Ron Hamilton captures this quite well: “When I enter heaven’s glory And I see my Saviour’s face, I will offer Him ten thousand years of praise. Then I’ll find that special one in whose life I saw God’s Son, And through tears of joy with trembling lips these words I’ll say: ‘I saw Jesus in you, I saw Jesus in you, I could hear His voice in the words you said, I saw Jesus in you. In your eyes I saw His care, I could see His love was there. You were faithful, and I saw Jesus in you.” Please ask yourself whether this is true of you now. Can people see Jesus in you?

Now letting others see Jesus in us is not all that we should do to fulfill our role as the salt of the earth. There is more to be done to make an impact on the world. This can be understood from another use of salt. It is also used as preservative. In fact, until canning and refrigeration were invented, salting was the main method that was used to preserve food. It is still used to preserve food today. That is why we have kiam he (salted fish), kiam chye (salted vegetables) and kiam neng (salted eggs). Salt preserves food by destroying all the bacteria which cause decay.

For this reason salt is also a very good antiseptic, and it was used in ancient times to keep wounds from becoming infected. Hence, we have the expression “to rub salt into a wound.” It may be painful, but it is very effective! In the same way that salt counteracts decay and prevents infection, we are useful Christians when we live in a way that counteracts the rottenness of sin in this world.

Do you know that many horrible vices of ancient times have been eradicated from society primarily because of the strong influence of Christians? E.g. In the 19th century, William Wilberforce (1759-1833) successfully campaigned for the abolition of slavery in England. Missionaries in China like Gladys Aylward made an impact on the practice of foot-binding of women. Within 40 years, this thousand-year old practice came to an end. In India, the temple prostitution of little girls was finally banned through the impact that was made by Amy Carmichael, an Irish missionary to India. What was it that enabled these Christians to do these things? They were merely fulfilling their role as the salt of the earth to counteract the awful rot and decay that sin had brought into the world.

Today, it is our turn to do the same thing. We need to make a similar impact to counteract the unholy trends of the world like materialism, gambling, pornography, licentiousness and sexual perversion. What can we do about these trends? Well, we certainly can pray against them, but there are times when we need to speak the truth in love, and take a stand for Christ in order to resist the strong tide of sin. We need to be like salt, exerting a seasoning effect upon the world for good, and being a preservative of society against sin.

We all know that ultimately, the ultimate cause of all the sinful trends in the world is sin that resides in the hearts of man. The only effective remedy that can deal with this problem of sin is the Gospel. And so, we must not be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). So please get yourself equipped to share the Gospel. In just two weeks’ time we will be holding a two-day evangelism and discipleship seminar over at Beulah House. I heard that so far only 11 people have signed up for this. Well I hope that after hearing this message more will come to be equipped by this training in relational evangelism. It will help you to be effective as the salt of the earth.

Please consider this: If the greatest thing that has ever happened to you is to be saved from sin and from eternal death, what then is the greatest thing that you can do for others? It is to tell them how to be saved from sin and eternal death! This is the only way to make a permanent impact on the world. And let us not underestimate the impact that we can make, if we persevere in doing this.

One good thing about salt is that it doesn’t take much of it to bring out its full effects. A pinch of salt is all that you need. Similarly, all that may be needed to make an impact in a community is one Christ-filled witness. In 1848, a Scots-Canadian missionary by the name of John Geddie came to an island in Melanesia which is known today at Vanuatu. It was inhabited by worst kind of savages who had killed and eaten 22 crew members of a British ship. These savages did not know what love is. Some even ate up their own children! But John Geddie bravely endured all kinds of trials and attacks from them. He learned to speak their language, and He witnessed to them with the Gospel. He showed them what love and forgiveness is by his own life. He brought them to Christ and taught them to read and love God’s Word which he translated into their language. After that, scores of them volunteered to bring the Gospel to the neighbouring islands and many were killed by other savages. Years of labour and prayer brought an amazing transformation to the entire community. Today two-thirds of the population of Vanuatu are Christians. What did it take to bring about this transformation? Only one life! One Christ-filled life!

After John Geddie died, a tablet was placed in the church he planted on Vanuatu with these words: “In memory of John Geddie, Doctor of Divinity, born in Scotland, 1815 …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.”

This does not mean that we will always see such an amazing impact from sharing the gospel with others. In fact, many people do reject the Gospel when it is shared with them. The Apostle Paul himself did not always see a warm response to the Gospel. When he preached to the Council of Mars Hill in Athens, he was dismissed from the meeting amid much laughter and ridicule.

There may be times when you will be disappointed and discouraged because people do not respond to the good news of salvation. When you feel this way, please remember that it is not your efforts, not your methods, not the approach you use, nor your witnessing skills that saves people. It is God alone who saves. Jesus said this in John 6:44 – “No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” Only God can change a sinner’s heart and convict him of his need for salvation. Your success as a witness is measured not by the number of souls you win to Christ, but by how well you have used every opportunity to share the gospel with people around you.

So let us be faithful in fulfilling our role as the salt of the earth and leave all the results to God. And if we fail to do this, we may end up not only neglecting our God-given role, but we may also prove that we are false Christians. This brings us to the third and last lesson we can learn from this verse:

3. False Christians Cannot Make a Good Impact on Others.

Jesus said, “…but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? 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 ever lose its saltiness. Pure salt has no expiry date. Sodium chloride will always be sodium chloride. It is a very stable compound that can never change or lose its properties.

But most of the salt in the ancient world was derived from salt marshes rather than by evaporation of salt water. The rock salt in these marshes contained many impurities. The actual salt, being more soluble than the impurities, could be leached out when it is exposed too long to moisture, leaving a white residue that looks just like salt, but is not salty at all. It is just white sand, which was thrown out into the streets and trodden underfoot. This illustrates the result of being a false Christian…

Like white sand, he may resemble a true Christian – he attends church every Sunday, and he does what everybody does during each worship service. But he is just going through the motions,  “…having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” (2 Timothy 3:5)  He doesn’t have the qualities of a true Christian. Jesus says that such a person is just like “…salt [that has] lost his savour …It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men.” May these words of Jesus be strong warning to all of us. Please examine yourself this morning to see if you are salt or sand. If you are salt, your life is able to make an impact on others for Christ. But if you are sand, then your life can never make any impact on others for Christ.

I confess that I was once like that many years ago – I was brought up in a Christian home and attended church regularly with my family. I called myself a Christian, but lived without Christ in my life. But God was merciful to make me realize that something was wrong, and that I needed to personally receive Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. It was only after that turning point that my life could make an impact on others for Him. I had mentioned earlier on that Christ is the One who gives us all the saltiness that we need in order to make a good, positive impact on others. Without Him we can do nothing.

There is no way you can make any impact for Christ if He is absent from your life. Perhaps God is speaking to you today to make you realize that something is not right. Why is your life not making any impact on others for Christ? Could it be that you are not salt but sand? If you are convinced that this is true of you, please do something about it! Turn to the Lord Jesus today and be saved! God alone can transform you from sand into salt. Only then can you make a real impact on others and become a faithful witness for our Lord Jesus Christ.

Today we have learned three lessons on being impactful Christians from what Jesus said in Matthew 5:13 – 1. We have the potential to make a good impact on others. 2. We need to go into the world to make a good impact on others. 3. False Christians cannot make a good impact on others. If you have truly been saved and you love the Lord, let your life be used to make a good impact on others. And when the Lord returns, may He find us faithfully living for Him and witnessing for Him as the salt of the earth.

 
 
 
 
 
 

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