The climate summit in Paris to curb emissions of the heat-trapping gases that apparently threaten to wreak havoc on Earth's climate system has come to an end this past week. Nations are asked to work together to reduce global warming by 2 degrees Celsius. CNN reported yesterday: “failure to set a cap could result in superdroughts, deadlier heat waves, mass extinctions of plants and animals, megafloods and rising seas that could wipe some island countries off the map. The only way to reach the goal, scientists say, is to eliminate fossil fuels. Whatever we may think of the politics of global warming, the fact remains that the citizens of the earth are asked to co-operate for a change in thinking about the future of our planet.
So here is a question for us, who call ourselves Christians:
“Do you believe that your life can make a difference in this world“?
And here we are not talking about leaving the car at home and thinking about cycling or walking to work this coming week. Here we are talking about something far profounder and far more fundamental and it is contained in these words of Jesus which we have just read.
A word about our context is in order.
This piece of Scripture is found in the context of the Sermon on the Mount which encompasses Matthew 5 to 7. The opening verses of this Sermon, the Beatitudes in Chapter 5, verses 1-12 are seminal, for here the Lord Jesus teaches us concerning the essential marks of Christian character.
So, you say you are converted?
You say that you have repented from your sin and turned to Christ?
The question now becomes, "how do I know and how does everyone else know that you are a Christian?"
It is not good enough to revel in the fact that you are a Christian. You must live like a Christian . Here are the marks of a true Christian as they are revealed to us in the Beatitudes:
A Christian knows their own poverty before God (v.3).
A true Christians mourns because of the sin that is in the world (v.4).
A Christian is a strong person, and yet meek (v.5).
A Christian hungers and thirsts for righteousness (v.6).
A Christian is merciful (v.7).
A Christian is pure in heart (v.8)
Christians are not troublemakers but peacemakers (v.9)
... and yet paradoxically because of their Christ-like attitude they are often persecuted (v.10).
These are the typical actions and attitudes of the true Christian. They are not known primarily by their words, but by their fruit (Matt. 7:20).
And now, following the Beatitudes Jesus proceeds to show us how a Christian life ought to affect or influence their surroundings. In order to illustrate this influence He makes use of two metaphors : Salt and Light !
A. V.13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
Three observations :
· The Christian life is meant to be lived and expressed in the earth (world).
· The effects of living the Christian life are comparable to the effect that salt has on its environment.
· ‘Salt -less’ Christians are contradictions in terms and useless for kingdom purposes.
1. The Christian life is meant to be lived and expressed in the earth
The first significant aspect of the Christian life as described in the Beatitudes is that it is meant to be lived out in the context of this earth which is subject to so much sin, pain and suffering. The Christian is born again in this world and Christians must learn to live out their faith in this world. When you become a Christian, God does not transport you to another planet.
Neither does He place you into a protected environment.
Christians are not given separate cities to live in.
They are not given a Christian country for themselves.
Christians are called out of the world to live in this world - in the midst of ungodly,atheistic, agnostic and idolatrous values. In this world Christians must be nurtured and be raised to the glory of God.
What a challenge!
The Christian shares a common humanity with the world, but through the new birth, the Christian has received power and desires to think and act differently to the norms of this world. The contrary nature of their thinking and acting has already been explained in vv. 2-12.
It appears to be a strange paradox by which the Christian must live in this world. The Christian is told that he must live in this world, and yet he is not of this world. He is ultimately not a citizen of this world. Jesus, in His High priestly prayer (Jn. 17) prays to the Father concerning His disciples, says on the one hand, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of it" (Jn.17:16) and yet He prays: "...take them not out of the world, but protect them from the evil one." (Jn.17:15)
The very thought that Christians can exert a healthy influence in the world should cause us to sit up and take note.
What lasting influence can the poor, the mourning, the meek, the merciful, the pure, the peacemaker have in this world?
Will they not simply be trodden upon or persecuted, as suggested in vv. 11-12?
How will they survive in an aggressive, self- centred world where things can seemingly only get done through assertiveness, brutality and selfishness?
It is evident that Jesus does not share my scepticism!
He tells His disciples that they are to be "salt and light" in this world despite the fact that it may not go well with them.
The major question therefore is this: How can Christians, with such feeble attitudes and influences exert a powerful influence in this world?
In this text we have an answer to this question.
2. Salt has an Effect on its Environment.
"You are the SALT of the earth". This is not only a description of the Christian and what his influence will be like in the world, but it also tells us something by implication what the world is like.
Salt ! That metaphor describes Christian influence well. Christians are to act like salt. Salt is a preservative. Christians are the preservatives of the earth. This implies that the earth without the presence and influence of Christians rots. Decays is in fact written into the DNA of this earth. It is confirmed by scientific observation – the 2nd law of Thermodynamics. Nothing lasts for ever. Everything grows and dies.
But it is also a spiritual observation. The Bible teaches us that man is not naturally tended towards good. Leaving a child to grow up by itself will not make it better. Life needs a restorative power. That restorative power is provided by God through His people. The church of Jesus Christ has been given for the healing of the nations.
The church preaches the gospel and people are saved through the preachers’ life –giving Word of God, as the Holy Spirit opens ears, eyes and hearts. People are plucked out of the fire and they are justified by grace through faith.
But that is not all. Now they must be discipled. That is the process of sanctification. They must grow out of their sin and they must grow into Christ. The church, that is the sum-total of all Christians must do the preaching that leads sinful men and women away from damnation to justification, and the church must do the preaching that leads to sanctification. The great work of the church is to worship and to work. From worship on Sunday we go into the working week meeting with broken sinners, broken by personal sin and broken by being sinned against. We work against the tide of destruction, and we bring the salt of Christ’s gospel with us.
Jesus’ disciples, Christians people are the salt of the earth . They are God's preserving agent of society. The encouraging fact is that a relatively small amount of salt makes a huge difference to the preservation of meat. A small church filled with true disciples of Jesus, with the heart of a Christian described in Matt 5:2-12, can have an amazing influence upon their society. Christians do not have to be a majority in order to control their ever decaying society.
In Namibia that certainly does not hold true. WE claim to be 90% Christian and yet see very little real fruit for all our Christian profession. But Christians that are truly salt i.e. “that have salt in themselves” (Mk. 9:50) can make a huge difference, even though they are in the minority.
Simply think of the influence which a Christian has when they enter into a room in which people are blaspheming and gossiping. The Christian's presence has an immediate effect. The Christian does not say a word, but people immediately begin to modify their language. The Christian is acting like salt. The Christian is controlling their decadent language. In the same way, a honest God fearing Christian begets an ethical work environment. A holy pastor begets holy church members.
From this perspective it would also be unimaginable to think what would happen if you took Christians out of this world. The world would bite and devour one another without men and women who are humble; who know themselves and who mourn because of sin. Imagine there was no one having mercy and no peacemakers. If you take Christians out of the world, it is just as good as saying that you take the gospel out of the world, for Christians are the means through which God acts as salt.
The stress is on the individual to be salt. All too often we hide behind an organization, without having salt in ourselves. We can see this chronic ineffectiveness in these large humanitarian organizations managed by people that do a job but they have no motivation to be there, except to get their salary at the end of the month. And then take an exceptional man like George Mueller of Bristol who in his life time led a humble organisation which cared for, clothed, fed and educated over 10 000 orphans. Think of a man like C.H. Spurgeon whose church had 66 societies (including an orphanage) for the biblical upliftment of humanity.
3.‘Salt-less’ Christians are contradictions in terms and useless for kingdom purposes
Finally, Jesus speaks about ‘salt-less Salt’. This is really a contradiction in terms. It is unimaginable for salt not to be salty. And that is precisely the point here. Salt-less salt is useless. Jesus uses this terminology to describe the paradox of a Christianity that has no effects upon its society.
It is useless!
He uses very strong language, “ It is no longer good for anything , except to be thrown out and trampled by men …”
This is the same as what Jesus says in Matt 25:30 : “Throw that worthless servant outside into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth…”. Salt-less Christians are like fruitless trees. They are a contradiction in terms. Therefore such will not be found in heaven.
This is no idle threat.
This is a loving warning of our Saviour!
Jesus is not interested in the fact that you are a mere member of your Church. Dead branches are also attached to a vine, and they will be cut off.
- Are you a productive, preserving agent working together with your church, in this case the "Swakopmund Baptist Church Saltworks" for the preservation of this corrupt society?
- Are you exercising a healing ministry in this rotten world.
- Don’t hide behind the church, and don't say: "I'm a member of a productive church that has a lot of salt . I have a pastor who has salt in himself ...". The challenge for you is to “have salt in yourselves!” (Mk. 9:50)
- Stop the rot! All the acts of parliament will not stop the rot. Well written Newspaper articles will not arrest the decay of your society. Obedient Christians will!
This and nothing less will preserve our society from decay, for this is God’s plan for the church.
 Dr.Francis Schaeffer called the Sermon on the Mount the “Christian Manifesto” .
 James 1:22-27
 The Monastic movement of the 8th/ 9th Centuries attempted to do this.