The Greatest Sermon in History Part 5
Pass the Salt & Turn On the Light
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
February 8, 2004


Main Passage: 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 today.


The 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 salt.

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 cells.

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 vitality.

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 happen…


For 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 be salt.

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 pre-Christians?

(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 world?

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?


The 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 attracts.

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 destination.

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 deities.

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 it.
(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 Seen

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 follow Him.”
~ 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 video…

E-ssential 3.6 – Tell His Story




Copyright © 2004