Kingdom Citizens in the World
Please turn with me in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 5. We continue our study or our Lordís Sermon on the Mount. We have been looking for several weeks at the Beatitudes. Those blessings with which our Lord opens this sermon. Donít miss at least one of the great things about His opening that sermon in this way. Jesus was about to give His disciples their marching orders. And those marching orders were going to be hard in some way. The Lord Jesus wanted His disciples to know at the outset that the life of holiness, the way of Christ, even the way of cross, even persecution and death, that, that life is the blessed life. It is the believer who has satisfaction. It is the believer who has true happiness. It is the believer who has fulfillment. It is the believer and the believer alone in Christ who knows experiences, true blessedness and though the world says, the way of happiness is the way of sin.
The way of indulgence, the way if self concern, the way of self promotion, the way of self satisfaction. That is the way of blessing. Christ is saying, donít be fooled by that. The way of self denial, that is the way of blessing. And He wants us to know at the outset that His way is the way of blessing. Donít listen to the lie of the world my friends. It will be whispered in your ear every commercial, every minute of the day, if you will listen, it will be whispered in your ear. Christís Beatitudes are there to remind you that His way is the way of blessing.
Christ has so far, in these Beatitudes given a list of blessing. And if you will scan verses 10-12 of Matthew chapter 5, you will remember that He has concluded these blessings by saying that you are blessed when you are persecuted. Now immediately the believer must ask himself, persecuted, that is what I am supposed to expect of the world, that is the attitude of the world for me? The world is going to persecute me? That is what you are saying my Lord? And Christ is saying yes. As you are like me, the world is going to persecute you. And when the believer comes to realization of what the Lord Jesus has just said, the believer has got to have at least a couple of reactions. I mean if our relationship to the world is going to be one in which the world is going to persecute us, the world is going to oppose us, surely there is going to be a little fear in our heart about the world. And if there is fear in our heart, surely there is tendency to say well, maybe I should withdraw from a world a little bit. Maybe the world wonít notice me and then maybe the world wonít persecute me. And then on the other hand, maybe the believer can look at the world and say, surely this world is a lost cause. Surely it is a little futile for me to be investing myself in this world that hates me and is going to persecute me, so perhaps again, I should be indifferent towards the world. In this passage today, in Matthew 5, verses 13-16, the Lord Jesus gives His marching orders to His disciples. How are they to relate to the world? Jesus tells them in verses 13-16. Attend with me the word of the living God, His holy an inspired and inherent word, beginning in Matthew 5, verse 16.
"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. "Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lamp stand ; and it gives light to all who are in the house. "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
Thus ends this reading of Godís holy word. May He add His blessing to it. Let us pray.
Our Lord this is Your word, and it is so familiar to us, that it would be very easy for us to gloss over it, not to appropriate it in our hearts and in our minds. We ask that You would not allow that to happen. Take these familiar words, words so familiar that most of us could quote them without help and make these words familiar words to burn in our hearts and in our consciousness. We would know the blessing and the responsibility of being salt and light in Your world. Help us to see that and so become, not only hearers, but doers of the Word of the living God. We ask it in Jesusí name. Amen.
Jesus has just told the disciples that the posture of the world towards them is going to be that world will not only think that they are useless and dispensable, but the world is actually going to help them along the way in dispensability. The world in some cases, is going to dispense with them itself. It is going to persecute them and to a certain extent martyr them, just like it treated the prophets before them. Naturally this would have created some anxiety in the minds and the hearts of the disciples as they pondered, what is my proper relationship then to be to this world? The relationship between the Christian and the world is the theme of Jesusí message in verses 13-16. He is telling you how you ought to relate to the world. And He knows that if you know that the world is in opposition to you, that you are going to have one of two tendencies. One tendency is going to be to withdraw from the world. You will not want to be around the world if the world hates you, surely you should just withdraw from the world. There are have been many Christians over the years who decided that this was the solution to being like the world or to being persecuted by the world. We will just withdraw in our own little community, weíll raise our own crops, we will have our own rules of living, and we will live in our nice little community, and we will let the world go its own way. We call that monasteries. But there are many Christians today, who have never darkened the door of a monastery who have decided to live isolated lives. They will live with Christ, they think, they will live under His word, they will live in His church, but they will absolutely nothing to do with the world whatsoever. They do not care. They isolate themselves.
The other tendency of Christians of course, is to compromise. Why if the world hates us for who we are, one sure way to get along with the world is to just give in at a few points. Well, why do we want to be do dogmatic, so distinctive, so different, surely we are being a little over the top, a little bit extreme in our commitment. Surely we can give in a these points. So isolation and compromise are both temptations that every generation of Christians faces as we contemplate what our proper relationship is to the world. The Lord Jesus is waiting for us in those temptations. And He is saying, donít do that. You are salt, you are light. Now just as almost every Christian knows the temptation to withdraw from the world and to be indifferent to it, or to compromise to the world and actually accommodate our thinking, our living, our desires to it. We also know friends who have overreacted to these two things. We know Christians, who in their quest not to compromise, have ended up hating the world and everything in it. Not only do they relish the thought of the world being burned in the intense flames of the judgment of God, but they do not care how many people go to hell. They do not care about witnessing to them, and they do not care about their own lives and making them better and contributing to them, they just do not care. They are antagonistic to the world. There were people like this in Jesusí day. There were very righteous Jews. They were called zealots. They were incensed at the Paganism that the Romans had brought to their land, and so they killed as many of them as they could in hopes of glorifying God. There are Christians today, who would like to take that tact in their relationship to the world. We live in a land which has been blessed with things precisely because of Godís blessings. And our land has turned its back upon God, and so there are many Christians who are frankly mad about that. And they want to relate to this world by crucifying it. They respond to the tendency to compromise on the part of some of their brethren by being totally antagonistic. They are in a combat mode against the world.
On the other hand, there are those who have responded to the tendency to compromise by isolating themselves from the world. There were people like this in Jesusí day, too. The Essenes. A very fervent Jewish sect had removed themselves. They had moved to the shores of the Dead Sea to withdraw themselves from the taint of secular society in Israel and they were going to live in a little clique with one another. And they were going to write scriptures and wait for the end time. They werenít going to be involved in the life of the world. Jesus answers our tendencies to compromise and the overreaction to that tendency to compromise, that is to be only antagonistic to the world by saying that we must be salt, that is we must be distinct from the world, but we must be distinct for the world for the sake of the world. Jesus answers our tendency to isolate ourselves from the world not by telling us to become activists like the zealots, but by being light. That is, we must be distinctive in the world influencing the world by the truth for the sake of the world. Jesus has much for us in these passages. Every Christian must ask, how ought I to relate to my world, to my culture? Jesus is telling you in Matthew 5, verses 13-16. There are so many truths in this passage that we could never do justice to them all even if we took a long time. But letís look at three of the great truths which the Lord has for us in this passage.
I. The Christian must be distinct from the world for the sake of the
By the way, the Lord Jesusí words, you are the salt of the earth, is not only an exhortation, they are an encouragement. You realize what the world has just said about you in verse 10-12. You are so dispensable that you are persecutable and killable. The Lord Jesus, that is what the world thinks of you. Let Me tell you what I think about you. I think that without you, the world would cease to exist. For you are the preservative that keeps the judgment of God from coming upon this world immediately. The world thinks nothing of you, I think you are the thing that keeps my father from just wiping the whole thing out right now. You are the preservative of the world. Never, ever forget that it is what your Lord thinks of you. That ought to be the controlling influence as we walk in this world. It is not what the world thinks of you, it is what your Lord thinks of you. What does your Lord think of you? He thinks that you are the salt of the world.
Our Lord tells us as well, this is not only an encouragement, this is an exhortation, we are to be salt. Christians are to be preservative in a decaying, in a dying world. We know that salt certainly serves as flavoring, but in this passage, certainly the prime idea is preservative. We are that thing which God weaves into the creation in order to keep it from decaying. We have a common grace function. We keep things from going as badly as they might go. You know what happens sometimes when you as a Christian, perhaps as a Christian, that your colleagues know have a strong profession of faith. You walk into a room, lewd language is being used, dirty jokes are being told. They turn, they see you enter, and suddenly, mid sentence it stops. They donít want to speak around you that way because they know that you would not approve and they know that you do not speak and live that way. You have just functioned as salt. You are a preservative. You, by simply being there, kept wickedness from continuing and increasing. Now that is a simple and individual illustration of what Christians do in every sphere of their relationships as long as they are involved in the society, in world. When Christ calls us to be salt, he reminds us that we work inconspicuously. Salt does not draw attention to itself. When salt draws attention to itself, there is too much salt on something. Salt works best when you donít recognize that it is there.
But if it is not there, then you have got a problem in the case of Christís time, if there was not enough salt there, the meat itself would have decayed, which the salt was being used to preserve. Salt is inconspicuous. It doesnít draw attention to itself. Jesus is not saying, I want to draw as much attention to yourself as possible, and therefore have influence in the world. Salt works quietly. Often times without being observed. And yet its presence, like leaven, leaven is the whole lump.
Let me remind you as well, that salt is common. It is interesting, isnít it, that Jesus didnít say, you are the frankincense of the world. He didnít look down the grocery list of the most expensive spice that He could think of and He say, you are this particular spice that costs $16.95 per ounce. You are salt. You are common. Each of us doesn't have to be extraordinarily gifted. We donít have to renaissance women, renaissance men, with hundreds of different capacities and abilities in order to have an impact in the world. Because we are the salt of the earth. And in our commonality and our basicness, and our Johnny-one-noteness, we can be faithful to the Lord. We donít have to be extraordinarily gifted like many of our brothers and sister are in order to be salt. The Lord calls us in our own ordinariness to be an influence for Him in the world.
How are we to be an influence? By being distinctive. You see the function of salt is primarily negative. It keeps decay from happening. But Jesus in this passage, in verse 13 makes it clear that if the salt loses its saltiness, if it loses that quality which makes it to be salt, it is worthless. In fact, it is even harmful. It would be better if werenít even there if it loses its quality of saltiness. And therefore, how are we to salt? By being distinctive.
Now my friends, that is one of the great sins of our age. To be distinctive. We are being blessed right now in our Sunday School Classes by not having one, but two very qualified Christians teaching on a concept abroad in our age called post-modernism. One of the things that we are learning as Dr. Travers and Dr. Hurley teach various Sunday School Classes about this is that post-modernism and the multiculturalism that goes along with it, does not like it when we make distinctions. Because it believes that there are no real distinctions. Everything is the same, everything is equal, we are all alike. And it also feels that when people start saying that there are ultimately distinctions between A and B that persecution and intolerance are sure to follow.
And so when your Lord says to you, you must be salt, do not expect to have someone vote you the man of the year, because you were salt. Because he is calling you to do the very thing that people in our age hate. To say, yes, my thinking is different than yours, it is controlled by a different authority. My living is different from yours, it is controlled by a different authority. I believer that this is truth and I believe that what this does not say, and what is being said in the world is falsehood. I do not believe that everything is truth. I believe that some things are truth and some things are falsehood. I believe that some behaviors and lifestyles are not legitimate, but they are wicked, and they are immoral. And when God calls us to be salt in a society, that hates that type of message, and after all, what Pagan society has ever like that message, we are not going to be liked, and yet, that is precisely what God calls us to do. He calls us to have a distinctive world view. He says you are not to make it up as you go along. You are to look at the world the way that I have told you to look at the world in the scripture. Your values, your agenda, your purposes, the things that you count important, the things that you think are priorities, the way that you live, the way you think, are to be controlled by the authority of my word. And when the world says that it donít like it, then you know that you have just done your job. The Lord calls us to that type of distinctive living in our world view, our priorities, our agendas of life, our code of ethics, and in our actual behavior. We are to be distinctive. We donít have to set up a neon sign, we just have to do what the Lord has called us to do in His word.
That is the challenge my friends, because I find that the Christians who are best at being distinctive often do not do a very good job of being distinctive for the sake of the world. In fact, in the midst of trying to be distinctive from the world, they oftentimes give the posture of being very hateful towards the world. But you remember what we said Jesusí principle was in verse 13? Christians must be distinct from the world for the sake of the world. You are the salt of the earth, Jesus says. He didnít say, you are the salt, He said, you are the salt of the earth. You have a function which is beneficial to the world. So disciples, this world that is going to persecute you, how are you to relate to them? You are to relate to them, by being distinctive so you can be a blessing to them. Because I want to use you to preserve society form its logical decay, and I want to use you to bring men and women to me. You are the salt of the world. Not just the salt. And that means if I can say this in a controversial way, we, as Christians must hate the world without hating the world. We must hate the world without hating the world. We really an truly must hate the lawlessness and opposition to God, which manifests itself in society and in the hearts of men and women. We should not only lament it, we should see it for what it is. Open rebellion against the living God. And yet, we are never given the option to oppose and confront and resist that lawless thinking and behavior without loving. Because we are the salt of the world. We are distinctive precisely because we want to love them with a tough love, with a real love, with a love that does not gloss over real distinctions, but with a love which acts in their best interest. In fact, we say, no to the world, and to its wickedness, precisely because we want to say yes to the world. Precisely because we want the world to taste the blessings that Christ speaks of in the Beatitudes. We donít want to see the world condemned just as our Lord did not come into the world to condemn the world as the Scripture passage that was sung by the Choir today says: He came into the world that the world might be saved. So also, that is our posture. Even thought he world opposes us and persecutes us, we are distinct from the world so that the world might experience blessing. We love the world but we do not love the ways of the world and we are not enticed by the desires of the world. In fact, we hate the ways of the world, and call the world to Christ and to repentance. And that in our case, my friends is going to be willingness to say that there are distinctions. That all truth is not equal. That all toads do not lead up the mountain. That all life styles are not acceptable. If we are going to faithful as salt, we are going to have to stand up in a community that says, you are intolerant if you reject anything, and we are going to have to say, if we do that, we are unloving. We must be distinct. We will not give in to the mindset of the world. We will not compromise. That is what God is calling us to do in verse 13.
II. Christians must be concerned for the world and show that concern in
word and deed.
My friends, I want you to look again at the blessing at the word of encouragement the Lord Jesus gives to you. The world says, you are ignorant, the world says you are backwards, the world says you are the very thing holding us back from progress. The world says, you are stupid. Your God says, you are the light, the wisdom, the truth, of this world. The world thinks you too naÔve, God thinks the world too naÔve. And God thinks because of the love of Christ shed abroad in your heart by grace, God thinks that you are the only wisdom that this world can avail itself of. For unless this world will embrace the truth that has embraced you, this world will walk in darkness. Never forget what your father thinks of you. When the world thinks you ignorant, you remember that the Father who made the world, thinks you who are simple to be wise in your simplicity. And Jesus calls us, of course, he exhorts us to be light. We are here to be light in darkness. What is our temptation, when we have the light in the midst of this hostile world? To isolate ourselves. And the Lord Jesus says, you donít do that. You donít light a lamp, and then put a basket over it. You put it in the highest and in the most prominent place in the room so that the whole room is lightened. And the Lord Jesus is saying, I didnít give you light, I didnít make you light, I didnít enlighten your hearts and your minds so that you could keep it to yourself. I did it so that you would share it with the world. So that you would influence the world by truth. You are to be moral light. You are to be spiritual light in the midst of depravity. You are to be spiritual wisdom in the midst of untruth. And that requires you to have a burning desire to do good for the world. To be an active witness in the world. To show genuine concern of the world.
And what is our temptation? What is the great temptation if we do have a heart to bear witness to the world, a true concern for the world? Well, isnít the great temptation there to actually compromise with the world? It is precisely, my friends, who desire to influence the world the most, who are most tempted to give in to the thinking of the world. And so Jesus again reminds us that the great temptation in effecting our concern for the world is a compromise with the world, becoming like the world, ceasing to be light, but the only way we can do good to the world is to be light. If we become darkness, we can do the world no good.
And so, the second great principal that we learn is not simply that we must hate the world without hating the world, but we must learn to love the world without loving the world. That is what Jesus is saying here. We must love the world without loving the world. Our love must be in accordance with truth and it must be without compromise. We must truly have a concern for people. We must truly love them in the sense of looking out for their best interest, not simply feeling kindly towards them, but tangibly looking out for their best interest. But even as we do so, we must not love at the compromise of truth, or else our love ceases to be love. I am okay, youíre okay, is not only not the gospel, it is heresy. We do not show love by saying, I am okay, youíre okay. In fact, the gospel is closer to I am not okay, youíre not okay. But the Lord Jesus has done something about that and you can receive it if you embrace Him by faith. To love, is not to condone sin. It is not loving to say, oh God will accept you no matter how you live towards Him, no matter how you relate to Christ. That is not loving. It is loving to say, bow the knee. It is loving to say, kiss the Son, it is loving to say, that way of living is opposition to God, and I love you so much that I risk your rejection of me to tell you so. It is not loving to say, oh we must embrace everyone, because all the leaps lead up the same mountain. We must embrace every lifestyle, because how could we be judgmental about people in the way they chose to live? If they choose to be adulterers, is the loving thing to say to those adulterers, "Oh God will bless you anyway." Is the loving thing to say to those who choose perverted forms of sexuality to say to them, "Oh God will accept you anyway," or is the loving thing to quote Paul and to say, that those who are thieves and liars and adulterers and fornicators and perverse will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. If that is truth, my friend, it is not loving to say it is not. It is not equally loving to tell a man who is driving off a cliff in his car that he is just as safe as a man who is driving along the coastal highway. The man has taken a wrong turn and the loving thing, no matter how much he resents his map reading abilities being questioned, the loving thing is to tell him that he has taken a wrong turn and that destruction awaits if he continues to drive off the cliff. Those who truly love, do not condone the sin of the world precisely because they love. It is a love without compromise.
And that means for instance, when we show true godly love for the homosexual, we do not condone the sinful choice of behavior. We say we love, we love at cost, but your behavior will destroy you and it is an affront to God and you must embrace Him if you would find the grace of forgiveness. That is true love. And that is the love that Christ is calling us to in this passage. Christians must remember who they are and what they are hear for.
And Jesus reiterates that in verse 16, when He says, let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your father who is in heaven. We are Godís people. We are salt and light. That is His estimation of us no matter what the world thinks. And because we are salt and light, we must live in such a way to bear witness to His work in us. Do we consciously in our callings in our vocations, at work and in the neighborhood, live so that the world knows who we belong to? Whose orders we march under? Christians must live in this way not to draw attention to themselves. The Pharisees did that. The Pharisees lived in such a way that the world would say, how pious. Christ says, that is not My goal for you My disciples. I want you to live in such a way that they will see your good works and not praise you, but glorify the Father who is in heaven.
Do you live for the glory of God? Is that a conscious goal of yours? That is what Christ is calling you to do as He calls you to be salt and light. My friends, we must be encouraged in the face of indifference and opposition, to be salt and light. No compromise with the thought forms of the world. No compromise with the behavior of the world. And at the same time, our compromise is not so that we end up feeling morally superior. Our compromise is not is that we can feel good about ourselves and judgmental about other people, but our unwillingness to compromise is precisely because we love the world and we do not want to see the people of the world consumed by their own self destructive rebellion against God. We say 'no' to the world so we can say 'yes' to the world. And as we say 'yes' to the world, we say 'no' to its ways, and call the world to follow the way of Christ because we are the salt of the earth and light of world. That is not an arrogant statement. That is what our Lord said about us. We didnít make that up. That is what He said. Letís look to Him in prayer.
Our Father, give us the grace to stand in this hard day. And so receive all the praise and the glory Yourself and draw the nations to Christ. We ask it in Jesusí name. Amen.
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