Pastor David B. Curtis

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Fundamental Disciplines - Part 4: Being Salt and Light

Matthew 5:13-16

03/01/1998

Officer Tori Matthews of the Southern California Humane Society got an emergency call: a boy's pet iguana had been scared up a tree by a neighbor's dog. It then fell from the tree into a swimming pool, where it sank like a brick. Officer Matthews came with her net. She dived into the pool, emerging seconds later with the pet's limp body.

As the Arizona Republic (2/14/95) reported, she thought, well, you do CPR on a person and a dog, why not an iguana? So she put her lips to the iguana's.

"Now that I look back on it," she said, "it was a pretty ugly animal to be kissing, but the last thing I wanted to do was tell this little boy that his iguana had died." The lizard responded to her efforts and made a full recovery.

Tori Matthews didn't see a water-logged reptile; she saw a little boy's beloved pet. We may not see the beauty in some people, but when we understand God's love for men, we will do what we can to keep them from drowning.

So far in this series, we've talked about some fundamentals to a healthy growing Christian life. We've talked about Bible study, prayer, and fellowship. All of these are important, all of these are essential to a healthy Christian life. We need to spend time each day in the Word of God. As we do, we will come to understand our God and ourselves much better. In the Word of God we will find truth that will set us apart to God and from the world. We also need to spend time with God in prayer. As we pray, we declare our dependency upon God, we give thanks for all He has done, and we look to Him to provide our every need. We also need each other; we need the love and support of one another, we need the correction and encouragement of each other.

Now, as we are faithful to be involved in each of these disciplines on a regular basis, we will grow in our walk with the Lord, and as a result of this we will be an influence in the world in which we live. This is the fourth of the fundamental disciplines; we are to be salt and light -- call it evangelism, outreach, or influence, it all boils down to the same thing. Our faith is to have an impact on the world in which we live. We, as believers, are called to influence our society, culture, and world. Look at:

Matthew 5:13-17 (NKJV) "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

We are called to be salt. The principle function of salt is to preserve and to act as an antiseptic, it has a healing effect.

The Christian is to function as salt in an individual sense. We are to be an influence by our life and character by being Christlike, in every sphere in which we find ourselves. By being Christlike we influence society almost automatically. Someone who is Christlike radiates his influence; it will permeate any group in which he happens to be.

Though the church makes her great pronouncements about abortion, pornography, homosexuality, and other major issues, the average person is not affected. But if you have a Christlike individual working in a shop, or an office, or in a school, or anywhere else, they will affect others around them.

What will have more impact on a woman considering an abortion, the preaching of the church against abortion, or a caring individual who lovingly shares with her what the Bible says about abortion, and then helps her think through some alternatives? Now don't misunderstand me, the church is to preach against these things, but we preach to believers, the world doesn't listen to us, but it watches you.

What is going to hinder the spread of pornography, the church preaching against it or individual Christians taking a stand against it where they live and work?

When I was out to sea with the Navy, our Chief Petty Officer put a Playboy centerfold picture up in our work space. When I came into work that morning, we were having a meeting in the work space and there was this porno picture. I told him that I could not work with that picture up and it needed to come down. I was cussed out, and called every derogatory name they could think of. When the meeting was over, I was told not to touch the picture. After the Chief left, I tore down the picture walked to the edge of the flight deck and threw the picture into the sea. I wasn't trying to stop sinners from sinning, what I was trying to do was to stop them from pushing their sin on me.

Every time the Chief saw me, he would cuss me out and call me a #&*%~ Christian! Through much prayer, I put into practice the principle of:

Proverbs 15:1 (NKJV) A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.

I worked hard at my job and tried to love him as Christ would. By the end of the cruise, the Chief was allowing me to study my Bible in his office and to also use it for counseling. When we pulled into port at the end of the cruise, the helicopter would fly off a day before the ship pulled in. The helicopter would carry the two pilots, the Chief, and one other person. The Chief asked me to fly off with him. I not only had the opportunity to get pornography off of the ship, but I was able to turn an enemy into a friend.

Proverbs 16:7 (NKJV) When a man's ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

I believe that, and I felt that as long as I was pleasing the Lord, He would take care of my enemies, and He did.

What good is salt if it has no flavor? None! If Christians don't influence their world, they are "good for nothing"according to Matthew 5:13. And even if salt does have flavor, it is no good if it doesn't leave the salt shaker. We are not to isolate ourselves from the world. If we are going to have an influence in the world, we must be in it.

Dr. Howard Hendricks said, "We are in danger of seeing the family as an end in itself, rather than as a means to an end. I see the family as a divinely appointed tool, an instrument to impact a hungry and thirsty society with the reality of Jesus Christ in human experience. In the family you've got the greatest intimacy, the greatest potential for fulfillment. Christ wants us to make the family a model of what He's able to do in human experience. The family is responsible for reaching out to society, getting outside of itself and offering Christ to others. Everywhere you go, we've got a new Christian program to get kids or young people or adults away from the non-christian world. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with these programs. But it's pretty hard to be effective if you're not at a place where the salt makes contact and where the light can be seen."

Not only are we to be salt, but we are also to be light. What good is a covered light? What good is a believer who is not shining in his world? Neither serves any purpose.

I think the order in which our Lord put these is important. We are to be salt first, then light. The first effect of a Christian is a general one. As a Christ like individual lives in the world, he is going to affect his environment. It is only after that, that he has this specific and particular function of acting as light. In other words, Scripture, in dealing with the Christian, always emphasizes first what he is, before it begins to speak of what he does. My Christlike behavior should cause people to say, "There is something unusual about that man." Then, as they watch my conduct and behavior, they begin to ask me questions. Here, the element of "light" comes out. I am now able to speak and teach them. The right to talk intimately to another person about the Lord Jesus Christ has to be earned. Whether we like it or not, our lives should always be the first thing to speak. If our lips speak more than our lives, it will avail very little. So often the tragedy has been that people proclaim the gospel in words, but their whole life and behavior has been a denial of it. We are to be salt and light, the two should always go together, but I believe the order here is important.

Ye are the light of the world-- This is a distinctive title which our Lord appropriates to himself:

John 8:12 (NKJV) Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."

The text in Matthew 5 is the only time in Scripture where believers are called the light. It is applied here by our Lord to believers only as they shine with his light of the gospel upon the world.

2 Corinthians 4:4-6 (NKJV) whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus' sake. 6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

As salt, we retard corruption. As light, we shine forth the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are to be doing both!

Matthew says in verse 16 that God is glorified by our good works. We, as believers, are called to influence our world. We see this fleshed out in the Scriptures.

Acts 16:25 (NKJV) "But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them."

There is always someone watching us and listening to the things we say. We are an influence. The only question is, "Are we being a good one?" Because of their influence, they were able to be a light.

Acts 16:26-32 (NKJV) Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here." 29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 31 So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.

Their relationship with the Lord was obvious to all, and this gave them opportunity to share the light of the gospel. The gospel is the good news of what Christ has done to save sinners.

Daniel 3:28-30 (NKJV) "Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! 29 "Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this." 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the province of Babylon."

These three Hebrew men took a stand against idolatry, and because of their influence, the whole country was effected.

We are to live holy lives and thus effect our world, and we also are to share the gospel. God has put the responsibility of sharing the glorious gospel into our hands.

Romans 10:14-15 (NKJV) How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!"

People can't believe what they have not heard, and they won't hear without a preacher. You are to be that preacher -- all of you. Isaiah, speaking of the New Covenant, puts it this way:

Isaiah 12:4-6 (NKJV) And in that day you will say: "Praise the LORD, call upon His name; Declare His deeds among the peoples, Make mention that His name is exalted. 5 Sing to the LORD, For He has done excellent things; This is known in all the earth. 6 Cry out and shout, O inhabitant of Zion, For great is the Holy One of Israel in your midst!"

The truth of salvation has been made known to us and we are to spread it. The light is not meant to be hidden under a bushel. It is meant to shine, and it is our business to see that it shines. Sharing the gospel is the inalienable responsibility of every Christian.

How do we share the gospel with others?

I think that most Christians are afraid to share their faith because they really don't know how. They are not sure what to say or how to say it. Let's look at a few simple things that will help us in sharing our faith.

1. Live a holy and a loving life -- be salt! If you are living an ungodly or and unloving life, and then try to tell people about your God, they are bound to laugh at you. If your life is a mess, they simply view you as a hypocrite.

Titus 2:9-10 (NKJV) Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.

The way we live will effect the way our message is received. We are to "adorn" the gospel by our godly life.

2. Understand that -- Salvation is of the Lord. Though it is our responsibility to proclaim the gospel, we must never forget that it is God who saves. It is not up to us to make converts. We are not to use gimmicks and do different things to coerce men to believe the gospel, we are simply to proclaim it. Our great privilege and responsibility is to share with others the glorious truth that Christ died to pay man's sin debt. It is up to God to open their heart that they might believe.

Acts 16:14 (NKJV) Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.

Everybody knows that salvation is of the Lord. Who do you thank for your salvation? You thank God because you know that He is the one who saved you. Also, we pray for people to be saved because we know that it is up to God to save them.

Understanding this takes away the guilt and pressure of thinking that if you don't say it just right, they might die and go to hell. It gives us the joy of sharing freely and confidently the truth of the gospel, knowing that God does the saving.

The gospel is: God saves sinners. GOD -- the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power, and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people: the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father's will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of Father and Son by renewing. SAVES -- does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies. SINNERS-- men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God's will or better their spiritual condition. This is the gospel: God saves sinners. Our responsibility is to share the good news with them.

3. Share with those who are interested -- don't beat them over the head with the gospel or try to drag them to church. Where in the life of Jesus or the apostles, do you see them chasing people through the streets of Jerusalem trying to share the gospel with them? If you have the opportunity and the people are open, then share with them as much as they are willing to receive. Don't give them more then they ask for. For example: If someone asks you a biblical question, don't preach at them for hours, just answer their question. If they want to know more, they will ask. If you dump your whole gospel dump truck on them, when they ask you a question, they won't feel free to come back with other questions.

It is my opinion that many people avoid Christians because we beat them with the gospel every time we have a chance. I think that if we treat them with love and respect, we will have many opportunities to share the gospel with them. What I am trying to say is, if folks aren't interested in what you have to say, don't force it on them. If you are living a loving and godly life, they are going to ask questions. And I have found that folks are much more open to what you have to say when they have asked you a question.

4. Realize that the gospel is the power of God -- it is spiritual dynamite. We often have the attitude what's the use, they won't believe the gospel and trust Christ. Why not? You did. And so will everyone who God has appointed to salvation. Jesus told us in the parables that the Kingdom of God would start small and grow to huge proportions.

Matthew 13:31-33 (NKJV) Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, 32 "which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches." 33 Another parable He spoke to them: "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened."

It started small, just 12 men, but it continues to grow today and fill the whole earth. A brief survey of the progress of the gospel from the earliest period until the present day will demonstrate its power. One author estimates that by the close of the Apostolic Period, the total number of Christians had already reached half a million. During the early days, Paul preached the gospel further and further westward until he finally reached Rome as a prisoner. But even his imprisonment is a help, rather than a hindrance, to the spread of the good news. He states:

Philippians 1:12-13 (NKJV) But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ;

Between the years 100-313, the gospel continues to penetrate the then-known world, and this in spite of many persecutions. This is, indeed, very remarkable, especially in the light of the fact that no less than 174,000 martyrs were buried in a single great tomb, namely, the catacombs of St. Sebastian in Rome. From Constantine to Charlemagne, 313-800, the gospel is carried to the countries of Western Europe. Next comes the period of the Middle Ages, from Charlemagne to Luther, 800-1517. Norway, Iceland, and Greenland are evangelized, and the Eastern Slavs turn to Christianity. During the period 1517-1792, many missionary societies originate, and the gospel is carried still farther westward. John Eliot carries the gospel to the North American Indians. From 1792 to the present, the gospel continues to reach out. On May 31 of 1792, William Carey preaches his famous missionary sermon based on Isaiah 54:2-3. As a result of the enthusiasm which he arouses, missionaries are sent to faraway countries so that India, southeastern Asia, China, Japan, Korea receive the gospel. Seventy years ago the Bible had been translated into only 300 languages; today it has been translated into about 1400 languages and dialects. And the work is still continuing. Can you say with Paul:

Romans 1:16 (NKJV) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

What a tremendous joy is ours, to be intrusted with the proclamation of the glorious gospel of the blessed God. Are you being faithful to be salt and light in the areas in which you have an influence?

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