The Result of our behaviour.

October 21, 2012

Over the past four weeks I’ve been speaking about what Jesus
said about our behaviour, and if you were looking for a specific list of what
we can do and can’t do you’ve been disappointed.    Jesus didn’t provide a detailed list but
instead insisted that our relationship with God would lead to proper
behaviour.  And he did provide some
warnings telling people that there were certain behaviours that would indicate
that there were problems with that relationship, and even indicated that people
who exhibited those behaviours weren’t in a relationship with him, regardless
of what they might claim.
The problem with lists is that if anything falls outside the
list we assume that behaviour is alright. 
And so we hear people who are involved in behaviour who are saying “Well
Jesus didn’t say anything about . . .” 
And you can fill in the blank.
And so Jesus painted a picture with broad strokes, a picture
of people who respected and loved God and one another.   When Jesus was looking for a metaphor to
describe those who behaved this way he reached out to and latched on to an unlikely
pair.  Jesus told those who followed him,
that their behaviours would make them like Salt and Light.  And while they might seem confusing to us to
those he was talking to it was probably an “Ahhh!” moment. 
We don’t know exactly who all had gathered around Jesus to
hear him speak that day, but we have some hints.  Back at the beginning of the chapter, when
this day began, you might remember we were told in Matthew
5:1-2 One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside
and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, and he began to teach them.  Did you catch that, Jesus saw the
crowds gathering but he went up to the mountainside and his disciples gathered
around and he began to teach them.
So it was not crowds of semi interested people who had
gathered around, it wasn’t the uninterested who were listening to the message
that day it was people who were seeking the truth, who had already in some way
committed themselves to following Jesus. 
Now we don’t know who all was there that day but we were
introduced to four of them not long before Jesus began to teach and it was the
four fisherman, Andrew, Peter, James and John. 
Four fisherman and I’m pretty sure that they were the ones who had the
eureka moment when Jesus talked about Salt and Light. 
Salt and light, that was something they knew about because every
night they made their way safely to shore by following the lights set out for
them and every day they took the fish that they hadn’t sold fresh and they
covered them in salt to preserve them for the next day.  And so when Jesus looked out at his disciples
and said “You are the salt of the earth and you are the light of the world”
Andrew and Peter and James and John all looked at each other and went “Ahhh, salt
and light, that’s cool.” 
But here we are two thousand years later and instead of
saying “ahhhh” we saying “Huh? Salt? Light?”
So what was it that Jesus was trying to say?  What was it about salt and light that Jesus
was trying to convey to those who sat around him on the hill that sunny
Palestinian afternoon?  And what is his
message for us 2000 years later.  What
was it about salt and light that should be evidenced in those who have chosen
to follow Jesus Christ?
The First thing is that Salt
and Light Are Distinctive. 
I’ve
never heard anyone say “Hey what’s that strange taste”  when they try something that is salty,  It is very distinctive and defining, salt is
not confused with other flavours, you don’t hear people say “You know it’s
either salt or vanilla I’m not sure which.”
You might hear someone say “that is really salty” or “This
needs more salt” but for the average person they don’t confuse the flavour of
salt with other flavours.
It is the same way with light, you might hear someone say
“What is that light?”  but you never hear
about light “Is that a light or a . . .?” 
I’m not even sure what you might possibly confuse a light with, perhaps
a reflection but that is still a light of sorts.
And so Christ is telling those who gathered to hear him that
day that if they chose to follow him they would be known as his followers, there
would be something distinctive in their lives that people would know that they
were a Christ follower.  A number of
years ago someone was telling me about a person who worked in the same office
as they did.  “We’ve worked together for
years” the person told me “And I just found out they are a Christian, isn’t
that funny?”  No actually it’s kind of
sad.  We are not called to be the same as
everyone else we are called to be different. 
Different in our perspectives, different in our behaviour,
different in our morals.  People should
be able to tell by your language that you are not like everyone else.  By what you laugh at and don’t laugh at.  When they are telling you about the weekend
they had and you tell them that you worshipped the God of creation on Sunday.  When they make sexual suggestive remarks and
you don’t reply in kind.
People shouldn’t wonder about your faith it should be
evident in your life you shouldn’t have to wear a sign that says “Look at me I
follow Jesus”  instead Christ’s presence
should be evident in your life.  Paul
writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who
belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has
begun!  And in 1 Corinthians 15:22 Everyone who belongs to Christ will be
given new life.  People ask you
all the time “Is that a new car?”  “Did
you get a new house?”  “Do you have new
glasses?” in the same way when you become a Christ Follower people should be
asking “Is that a new life you have?”
Do you remember from watching Sesame Street “One of these things is not
like the others, One of these things just doesn’t
belong, Can you tell which thing is not like the others by the time I finish my
song?”  If you are a Christ follower and
you are in the company of non-Christ Followers you are the thing that is not
like the others, or at least you should be
When Jesus was praying for his followers before he went to
the cross, praying not just for Peter and Andrew, not just for James and
Nathaniel, but for Denn and for Mike and for Sherry and Heather and for all the
people who would ever follow him, he prayed 
John 17:15-17 I’m not asking you to take them
out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong
to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your
word, which is truth.
Did you catch that? 
They do not belong to the world any more than I do.  If you are a Christ Follower, and you’ve
probably figured out if you’ve been around Cornerstone for any length of time I
use that term more than Christian because Christian is just way too generic in
2012, if you are a Christ Follower then it is because you are following
Christ.  It’s not because you attend
Cornerstone, that doesn’t make you a Christ Follower, it’s not because your
parents or your spouse follow Christ, that won’t cut it. 
Jesus told us 2000 years ago John
12:26 Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants
must be where I am. And the Father will honour anyone who serves me.
If we were going to the same place, and you wanted to go but
didn’t know the way you could follow me. 
And that would entail . . . following me.  And maybe when we got out on the highway you
decided that I was driving too slow for your preference or maybe you didn’t
like the colour of my car or whatever and you decided to follow someone
else.  You would no longer be following
me, no matter what you said and if you ended up in a different place then you
intended that would be your fault not mine. 
As a Christ follower you are to follow Christ, not Mohammed,
not Buddha, not Confucius and certainly not Denn.  Dad often reminds me of the Tombstone
somewhere in the US
that has as the epitaph
Pause, stranger, when you pass me
by,
For as you are, so once was I.
As I am now, so will you be.
Then prepare unto death, and follow
me.
And someone had scratched on it:
To follow you I’m not content
Until I know which way you went!
As Salt and light are distinctive if we are followers of Christ
we will be distinctive because we will be like the Christ we follow. 
Salt and Light Serve a Purpose.  A number of years ago I preached a message on being the salt of the
earth and mentioned several purposes that salt was used for 2000 years ago. Salt
was Essential for Health
Salt is essential for the well-being and
indeed the very existence for those living in very hot climates.  It is necessary for proper body metabolism,
that is the normal retention and exchange of fluids between cells. 
When the body begins to lose moisture and salt content
through perspiration, then the life process become threatened.  In fact if the salt isn’t replaced then death
may occur. 
So when Christ
commends us as salt he is commanding us to contribute to the health, vitality
and well-being of society.  Too often we
hear the phrase “society is sick” and well that may be true, the Christian
church must realize that one of the reasons we are supposed to be here is to
keep society healthy.
Salt Was Used to Preserve This was probably one of the most important functions of salt in
Christ’s day.  In the hot weather of Palestine, before
refrigerators or coolers the only way to keep the meat or fish you didn’t need
today from going bad was to salt it.  Now
I don’t mean a little bit of salt I mean lots of salt.  And through this process of salting
putrefaction was kept at bay.
When I was growing
up from time to time we’d have salt fish, because that’s what my parents grew
up eating on Grand Manan.  To prepare the
fish you’d soak it all day, change the water a few times and then boil it, and
then when you ate it you kept a glass of water handy because it was so
salty.  There was no doubt in anybody’s mind at all that there was some salt in that
fish.
That is the way we
are supposed to affect society, they can soak themselves in sin, they can try
to boil us out but if’n we are doing what we are supposed to be doing then we
should permeate society so even with a casual taste Christianity is the
prominent flavour.  Instead we have become
like those new potato chips that are lightly salted.  When you first taste them you’re not sure if
they have salt on them or not.
The only way we are
going to preserve this old world is to pack it in salt, and we’ll never do that
as long as the salt is content to be in the salt shaker.
Salt Was used for Seasoning 
Historians tell us that the food of Jesus day would have been very
bland.  In our gastronomical
experimentation we have lost sight of what it must have been like.  If we look at many of the third world
countries even though they may not be on a starvation diet their sustenance
comes primarily from rice or grain.  Meat
and fish is a real treat.  When I was in Africa the primary seasoning was salt, unlike the
Maritimes where it’s Ketchup. 
Christ’s diet would have required salt to improve its
flavour.  And so if we are to be the salt
of the earth part of our purpose is to add flavour to the world, to make it
more palatable.  Over the past two
thousand years the church has helped improve the flavour of the world through
art, music and literature.
Salt
Was Used for healing
 
  2000 years ago there wasn’t a drug store on
every corner.  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.  When I was in Bible College
our school nurse had served for forty years as a missionary nurse in Africa and her solution for most medical problems was to
gargle with salt water. 
The church of Jesus Christ
needs to have a healing ministry in today’s
world, and not just spiritual healing either but physical and emotional healing
as well.  There needs to be a ministry of
reconciliation.  We need to help in the
healing of broken bodies, broken hearts, broken homes, and broken hopes and
dreams. 
Light serves a purpose as
well.  And this was a picture that these
fishermen would understand
Light Attracts
Peter and Andrew and the boys fished at night
because during the day the fish in the Sea of Galilee stay close to the bottom
where it’s cooler but during the cool of the night they come close to the
surface and the guys would have kept a lit torch aboard their boats to draw the
fish even closer.  You ever turn your
lights off on your porch in the summer time because it attracts moths?  15 Years ago when we first moved into
Kingswood our son Stephen had fallen asleep watching TV and had the outside
light on and the front room light on and someone who was lost deep in the bowels
of Kingswood came to our door at 2:30 in the morning looking for directions,
why?  Because they saw our light.  When we are the light of the world we will
attract people to Jesus, that’s part of what we are supposed to do. Remember
what Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 4:19 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish
for people!”  and Paul writes in Ephesians  5:8 For once
you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as
people of light!
Light Guides When fishing at night these men would have someone on the shore
light and tend a fire that would guide them back to shore in the dark.  If salt preserves then light points, not to
itself but to a path.  If you were to
follow the beam of a light house or a buoy you would be in serious trouble
because you’d eventually run into it. 
People are looking for the light that the
Christian provides, but it shouldn’t lead a person to a particular doctrine or
person instead it needs to lead past the person to Jesus.  And so we need to be a light for the non-believer,
the pre-Christian. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:16 In
the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone
will praise your heavenly Father. 
I remember when I was fishing with my dad
sailing into Yarmouth in the fog, I can’t
remember sailing into Yarmouth
without fog but that’s a different story. 
And we’d use our radar as much as we could but we would put a man out on
the bow to keep a look out for the light from the buoys.  The pre-Christian may be directed toward
Christ by the Bible or a T.V. Evangelist or a book but the Gospel has to come
to life in the light of a believer. 
I knew the facts of salvation, but it
wasn’t until I saw the reality of Christ’s changing power in the life of my
best friend that I was willing to trust Jesus with my life.
A Light Dispels the Darkness  Here
is the reality, it doesn’t matter how dark it is light will always
prevail.  If we could seal off this room
completely from any outside source of light it would be very very dark, or as
my Daddy would say “Darker then the inside of a cow’s belly.”  I’m assuming that he was just guessing on
that and wasn’t speaking from experience. 
But as dark as it might be that darkness would be dispelled by the flame
of a single match.  John wrote of Jesus
in John 1:4-5 The Word gave life to everything that
was created, and his life brought light to
everyone. The light shines in the
darkness, and the darkness can never
extinguish it.
Adlai
Stevenson wrote of Eleanor Roosevelt “She would
rather light candles than curse the darkness, and her glow has warmed the
world.”   We need to show the
light of Christ to the world, and as society becomes darker and darker the need
will be greater and greater for us to shine with the light of Christ.  And as futile as it might seem remember John 1:5 The light shines
in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
And then Christ gives us two warnings. Matthew 5:13 & 15 “You
are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can
you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as
worthless. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a
lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.”
3)
Without Their Purpose They Have No Value 
If salt isn’t being salt and light isn’t
being light then they are valueless.  But
here is an interesting thing salt can never be anything but salt.  It cannot become less salty and light can
never be anything but light, it cannot become less lighty.  And I know you are thinking “But Jesus
said”  I know what Jesus said but Salt is
always salt and light is always light. 
Salt cannot stop
being salt.  Salt in itself cannot become
less salty.  Salt is salt is salt.  It does not become less salty, the only way that
salt can lose its saltiness is by contamination.  When other elements are mixed with it, so
there ends up being less salt and more stuff. 
Christians become less salty the same way, when we become contaminated
by other things.  And we become less like
Christ and more like the world.
Every Christian will
be a witness.  They will either be a
witness to the changing power of Jesus Christ or against the changing power of
Jesus Christ.  And it is a sad commentary
about human nature that the negative witness will have more impact than the
positive witness.  It’s like the pastor
who told a colleague “I have 800 members in my
church”  “How many are active?” his
friend enquired.  “All of them” came the
reply “600 are active for the Lord and the rest are active for the devil”  You’re going to be salt for one or the other
and only you can decide.
And while light will
always be light it can be hidden either partly or completely and then it can no
longer do its job.  And we cover it up by
not acknowledging the light, never acknowledging our relationship with Jesus or
by allowing our light to become filtered through our actions or the company we
keep.  2
Corinthians  6:14 Don’t team up with
those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness?
How can light live with darkness?  The light may still be there but it’s no longer serving its purpose
because of the dark lenses it is being seen though.
So how about it this morning, are you
having a positive influence on the world around you because of your
relationship with Jesus Christ?  It’s not
an option, it is a requirement for being a part of the Kingdom of God.  Jesus didn’t say you might be salt or you may
be light, he said if you are following Him that you will be salt and light.