Greatest Sermon in History Part 5
Pass the Salt & Turn On the
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
February 8, 2004
Matthew 5:13-16 (NLT)
In the passage that Lynn read for us
earlier, Jesus describes us, as His disciples, by calling us two
things: Salt and Light. This morning we’re going to look at these two
things and we’ll talk about their characteristics. What makes salt
salt, and what makes light light? And what does that mean for you and
me if we are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
First of all, Jesus called us the “salt of the earth.” Today when you
think about salt, you probably think about the little container that
you find on just about every table. Maybe you think about the larger
box or bag you have stored away in your cupboard. Or at this time of
year, you may think about the insane amounts of salt we use on our
roads to melt the ice. It’s cheap, and it’s everywhere. Sometimes you
can even smell it in the air, being this close to the water.
But jump back 2000 years and salt was one of the most valuable
substances in the world. It couldn’t really be mined, so most of the
salt that was available was evaporated out of seawater. And the purity
of that salt couldn’t be guaranteed. In fact, it was possible for some
salt to literally “lose its saltiness” through physical disintegration
because of the impurities.
So salt was a rare commodity and was considered very valuable. Roman
soldiers were even paid in salt for a time. That’s where the phrase
“not worth his salt” comes from. Eventually these soldiers were given
money to buy salt. This money was called a salarium, which means “of
salt” and is the root for our current term “salary.”
So when Jesus called us, “the salt of the earth”, He was referring to
something of worth. It had value for the people who heard Him speak.
And for us to understand that value, we need to understand the use of
salt in Jesus’ day. I know that we use salt today on our roads in
winter, but I don’t think melting ice was a big concern in Israel in
the first century A.D. So let’s talk about some of the values that it
did have and what that means for you and me as followers of Christ
Values of Salt:
1. Salt preserves
Before the advent of modern day
refrigeration, salt was used extensively in the preservation of food.
It stops decay, it kills germs, and prolongs shelf life. If you’re
really bored sometime, go through your Lazy-Susan or your cupboards and
see how many cans and bottles you find that contain salt.
G. Campbell Morgan said,
“Jesus, looking out over the multitudes of His day, saw the corruption,
the disintegration of life at every point, its break-up, its
spoliation; and because of His love of the multitudes, He knew the
thing that they needed most was the salt in order that the corruption
should be arrested.”
~ G.C. Morgan
If you and I are to be salt, we need to be moral disinfectants in the
world. We are to stop the moral decay in our society by standing for
Godly values and Godly principles.
2. Salt adds flavour
Today we add all kinds of things to our
food. We spice things up, we experiment with all kinds of seasonings,
and we’ve come to expect our food to have lots of flavour. But
historians tell us that the food of Jesus’ day would have been rather
bland. Even if you look at third world countries today, you’ll find
that they don’t have a lot of variety in their meals… mostly they have
rice and grains. Meat or fish for them is a real treat. And in order to
make the food more palatable, you need to add salt… lots and lots of
You and I are to make life more palatable. There are a lot of people
even here in Charlottetown that find life almost unbearable, and you
and I have the opportunity to make their lives more bearable by showing
them the love of Christ.
“Christians are to be good news before they share the good news.”
~ Joe Aldrich
3. Salt keeps us healthy
POWERPOINT – From Star Trek: The Man Trap
Isn’t that a nice looking creature? Anybody recognize it? It’s from the
very first episode of Star Trek that was ever aired on television. It’s
kind of a salt-vampire. This alien creature had the ability to absorb
all the salt out of a human body, leaving the body dead. Because salt
is essential to life. It’s essential to good health. It’s essential for
proper metabolism… the normal retention and exchange of fluid between
Salt is especially important in hot climates. When you sweat and the
body begins to lose salt through perspiration, your life can be in
danger. And if the salt isn’t replaced, you could die. So you find that
people who live and work in very hot climates often find it necessary
to take salt tablets.
When we lived in Bedford, I worked with a guy named Denn Guptill. Denn
and his family had spent four years in Australia. He told me about a
kind of brown paste that Australians spread on their toast. According
to Denn, it would remind you a little bit of axle grease that’s gone
off. It’s called vegamite. Apparently, Australians grow up eating this
stuff like we eat Peanut Butter, and one of the benefits of it is its
high salt content. Two thousand years ago, Israel didn’t have vegamite
and so salt would be key to their health, well being, strength and
So if you and I are going to be salt, we need to contribute to the
health, well being, strength and vitality of society. I think we as
Christians too often find ourselves complaining about how sick our
society has become and fail to realize that it’s our fault… it’s our
responsibility to keep society healthy.
4. Salt has healing qualities
2000 years ago there wasn’t a drug store on
every corner. (Shera would probably have a hard time finding a place to
work.) Instead, if a soldier was hurt in battle, if a farmer was gored
by a bull, if a child fell down and scraped his knee there was a common
treatment: The wound was bathed in salt and water. And it proved to be
an excellent sterilization agent. As a matter of fact it’s still used
in many countries today. Hey, I’ve even been known to gargle with
salt-water when I have a sore throat.
Salt has healing qualities, and the church needs to have a healing
ministry in world. We need to be in the business of healing broken
bodies, broken hearts, broken homes, and broken hopes and dreams.
5. Salt creates thirst
As the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to
water, but you can't make it drink!” That may very well be true, but
you can salt the oats so the horse will want to drink! Because salt
makes you thirsty.
As believers, you and I should stimulate a spiritual thirst in the
people we come into contact with. We need to be people of integrity, of
faith, of consistency, of passion… Our relationship with God should so
impact every area of our lives that people notice that there’s
something different about us and they become thirsty for whatever that
difference is. If you’re a believer and everyone you know is repelled
by your faith, then something’s wrong. Because while some people may
reject it, others should find your faith attractive and appealing. They
should thirst for it.
Those are the values of salt. That’s what
salt can do. But for the salt to do those things, two things need to
Salt to be Useful, It Must…
A. Remain Salty
In ancient Greece, the theatre was extremely
important. And they would put on these huge plays in large
amphitheatres. The actors didn’t have microphones to make their voices
heard, and they didn’t have cameras to magnify their images onto
screens, so they invented their own system. They developed big masks.
The masks made them look like the characters they portrayed. Built into
the masks were megaphones to amplify their voices. The actors got on
stage, got behind their masks and they became somebody else, someone
different than they really were. It may interest you to know that these
actors were called “hypocrites.” They were not what they appeared to
be. They claimed to be one thing but in reality were another.
Jesus asked, “But what good is salt if it has lost its flavour?” (v.13)
The New International Version calls this salt that has lost its
saltiness. But here’s the thing: Salt doesn’t loss its saltiness. You
can leave your box of salt in your cupboard for years, and it will
still be salty. Granted, it may be in one big clump, but it will still
I mentioned earlier that in Jesus’ day the main source of salt would
have been from saltwater, and the salt wasn’t always that pure. That
meant that you could sometimes have salt that wasn’t salty… it wasn’t
good for anything… it wasn’t pure.
If you and I are going to maintain our saltiness, we need to remain
pure. We can’t be like the hypocrites… saying we’re one thing when in
reality were something else. If that were the case, we would lose our
credibility, we would lose our influence, we would lose our value, and
we would lose our place in the Kingdom. Jesus said that we would be
“thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.” (v. 13)
“Chances are better that you will be able to influence people for
Christ if they can see that Christ has made a difference in your life.”
~ Tim Bond
So we need to remain salty. We also need to make contact.
B. Make Contact
One of the big problems in the church today
is that we’ve developed an “us versus them” mentality. We hold up in
our churches and allow the world to pass us by. We separate ourselves
from pre-Christians and only hang around other believers. The Bible
talks about us being in the world but not of it. We’ve turned that
around and in a lot of ways tend to be of the world by not in it.
But the thing about salt is that in order for it to be at all useful it
requires contact. It doesn’t make your food taste better by sitting in
the cupboard. It doesn’t disinfect a wound by staying in the
salt-shaker. It requires contact.
“Salt has the capacity to change everything it comes in contact with,
if only it will come in contact with it.”
~ Guy Glass
Jesus challenges us to make a concerted effort to live in contact with
people who need to know Him. We need to be involved with
pre-Christians. In our context, it means we need to make the effort to
cross paths with people who don’t know Jesus or the love and hope He
offers. Come into contact with them and remember that you represent
Christ. That’s the only way you will ever influence them.
How can you do that? How can you build God-honouring relationships with
(volunteering at the library or the school, get involved in coaching a
kids athletic league, find a social organization that does good in the
community and get involved, leave a decent tip at restaurants, smile
and be pleasant to the person who checks you out at the store, help
somebody who needs some assistance.)
Okay. So Jesus first of all called us the
salt of the earth. After that, He called us the light of the world. And
that can be a bit confusing. After all, isn’t Jesus the light of the
John 8:12 (NLT)
Jesus said to the people, "I am the light of
the world. If you follow me, you won't be stumbling through the
darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life."
So Jesus is the Light of the World. But He injects that light into us.
Ephesians 5:8-9 (NLT)
For though your hearts were once full of
darkness, now you are full of light from the Lord, and your behaviour
should show it! For this light within you produces only what is good
and right and true.
So we are the light of the world, but only as we are connected to the
true light source, to Jesus Himself. Understanding that, what value
does light have?
Values of Light:
1. Light Reveals
As we live out our faith in the world and as
we allow the radiance of Christ to shine through us, it will reveal the
sinfulness of our world. People will recognize that there’s something
wrong. They will recognize their sinfulness. They will recognize their
need of God.
Ephesians 5:10-14 (NLT)
Try to find out what is pleasing to the
Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness;
instead, rebuke and expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the
things that ungodly people do in secret. But when the light shines on
them, it becomes clear how evil these things are. And where your light
shines, it will expose their evil deeds.
You know, I think there are times when you have to actively attack sin
and evil… when you need to publicly stand for Godly values. But most of
the time, I think we simply have to live out our faith. We need to live
lives that are pure and true, lives that live up to what we claim to
believe, lives that reflect the glory of Christ. And the light of
Christ lived through a life of integrity can reveal the sinfulness
around us and force people to confront their darkness.
2. Light Beckons
In the summer, Shera and I have to be
careful not to leave our outside light on too long or our deck will be
swarming with bugs. There’s something about light that attracts them.
If you hear someone talk about a near-death experience, they will often
talk about seeing a light and being drawn toward it. An old Green
Gables commercial bragged that, “Our shelves are filled with goodness,
our stores are clean and bright.” There’s something about light that
Jesus talked about a city on a hill. Remember the setting. The people
listening to Jesus talking would have pictured some of the nearby towns
set on hillsides without having a bunch of trees in the area to hide
them. Many of the buildings would have been build out of white
limestone, which would have glistened with the sun shining on it. And
people would be drawn to these towns. They would make them their
Your life lived inside a relationship with Jesus is a beacon. You show
people where they want to be.
3. Light Gives Guidance
Psalm 119:105 (NLT)
Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light
for my path.
One of the places Shera and I have camped is Caton’s Island in New
Brunswick. It’s a church camp and the front part of the Island is
fairly well developed and lit up at night. But there’s a path that
leads right down the middle of the Island to reach the beach at the
back. And this path isn’t very well lit at all. So it’s easy to wander
off the path at night and run into a tree. And to make matters worse,
it’s a path that’s used by the horses. So you really want to know where
you’re stepping. So anytime I’m going there and staying overnight I
make sure I take a flashlight. I want to be able to see where I’m
going. I want to be able to reach my destination.
You and I are the light to help our friends, family and coworkers find
God. You and I are to direct them along that path. Last Saturday we had
a seminar to talk about some practical ways you can do that. There are
different tools, different methods that people have found useful in
sharing their faith. And if you want a copy of the notes from that
seminar, talk to me and I’ll get you a copy.
But the trick isn’t in having the right method. Some of you know John
Symonds. He grew a church from 50 people to 500 people in Yarmouth,
Nova Scotia. I’ve heard him say on a number of occasions,
“When the ‘why’ is big enough, any old ‘how’ will do.”
~ John Symonds
Is your “why” big enough? Do you have a passion to help people find
God? Do you understand the urgency of taking people that are on the
road to Hell and helping them find the road to God? If not, then you
need to pray and ask God to fill you with a love and passion for the
lost. And don’t just ask once… ask over and over and over again until
such a passion burns inside you.
4. Light Overcomes Darkness
Talking about Jesus, John wrote in 1:4;
John 1:4 (NLT)
Life itself was in him, and this life gives
light to everyone. The light shines through the darkness, and the
darkness can never extinguish it.
With the light of Christ shining through us, no darkness can overcome
us. Some people may not like, and they may oppose us and persecute us –
We talked about that last week – but they can never overcome us.
Darkness doesn’t stand a chance against the light.
This Saturday is Valentine’s Day. According to one tradition, Valentine
was a Christian pastor near Rome way back in the third century. At that
point of time, the Roman Emperor was still imprisoning Christians for
not worshipping the Roman gods. So Valentine was arrested, and during
his trial they asked him what he thought of the Roman gods Jupiter and
Mercury. Valentine said they were false gods and that Jesus was the
only true God. So the Romans threw him in prison for insulting their
Well, even though he was in prison, Valentine continued to minister
while he was in prison by telling the guards about Jesus. One of the
jailors was a good man who had adopted a blind girl. He asked Valentine
if his God could help his daughter. Valentine believed he could, so he
prayed and the girl miraculously received her sight! As a result, the
guard and his entire extended family of 46 people became Christians.
When the emperor heard about this he was furious and had Valentine
beheaded on February 14th.
As a point of interest, legend has it that Valentine left a farewell
note to the jailor’s daughter and signed it, “From your Valentine.”
Valentine knew that if he told the court the truth about the Roman gods
that he would be thrown in prison. He knew that he might be in trouble
if he witnessed. But he let his light shine and he was salt for Jesus
in spite of the danger because he knew that lost people matter to God.
[Say that with me – “Lost people matter to God.] He was willing to risk
his life to spread the Good News of Jesus to those who needed to hear
(from “What We are Called to Be” by Brian Bill, SermonCentral)
For your light to be useful, it needs really one thing…
For Light to be Useful, It Must Be
Jesus talked about covering your lamp with a
bowl. If you cover your lamp with a bowl, what’s going to happen?
- The benefits of the lamp will be lost
- The lamp will go out
“A flight into the invisible is a denial of
the call. A community of Jesus which seeks to hide itself has ceased to
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
You can’t hide your light anytime it becomes inconvenient or
uncomfortable. If you are going to make any difference in this world
for the sake of Christ, you need to keep your faith visible. That means
you don’t compromise on your values, you don’t do things or go places
just to fit in, and you don’t lose sight of the urgency of helping as
many as possible find God.
Just as we finish, I want you to watch this
E-ssential 3.6 – Tell His Story