You know, I’m pretty excited to be teaching today on this particular part of the Sermon on the Mount because these couple verses are a really big deal to me…and I hope really wrap into the identity of us as a church and us as disciples of Jesus.  When we planted MRC in Dillsburg, Pa. 17 years ago Mashawn and I were…well we were younger, I will tell you I had a little more bounce in my step than I do today!  Ha, we were volunteering our time as part of the MRC Dillsburg launch team at MRC helping with the youth group and my prayer for those young people came right out of our teaching for today.  I would walk and run around the schools back in those days and literally pray this over our youth in the hopes that someday they would stand tall in what Jesus says here.  As Mashawn and I started having children, from the moment our oldest daughter Monica was born and right to this day my prayer for my children has come from this awesome statement from Jesus today.  I want my children to be this kind of person, one who stands out, who really lives, and who can be a light in the darkest places and I can’t wait to get into this with you today as we get into some very important verses in the Sermon on the Mount found here…

Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. NIV

I would love to see a world where we Christian’s center on this particular chunk of Jesus’ teaching and I cannot wait to jump into this with you.  But before we do, I want to look back at where we have been because it actually helps us with where we will be today.

So if you remember Ken opened up this series by setting the scene for us, and giving us an understanding of what Jesus was up to and he showed us something that I find fascinating about this amazing sermon that Jesus preached…and that is that He didn’t preach it to everyone!  I love how the Bible gives us these little details, which to me are so intentionally placed in Scripture and they are very important!

Matthew 5:1 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down 2 and taught his climbing companions. MSG

I told you last week, I love this idea…that the committed climbed with Him.  Do you know what that means?  It means that not everyone got the benefit of this amazing teaching.  Jesus sees his ministry drawing huge crowds and what does He do?  He goes to a hillside, and climbs the hill…sits down at a quiet place and sees who comes along.  That is who He teaches.  His disciples, those who are committed to Him.  I don’t want you losing sight of that as we dive into our teaching today.  He is talking to His disciples.  I love that phrasing, the committed climbed with Him.

Then last week we worked through a very popular part of the Sermon on the Mount called “The Beattitudes.”  The Beattitudes are basically 8 very direct, very counter-cultural statements where Jesus says “You are blessed when _____________.”  He does it 8 times, and one of the things I really stressed in that sermon last week is just how opposite Jesus thinks.  He teaches, and leads, and models a life for us that is opposite of our human nature or our natural instincts.  He views things like strength, success, Kingly leadership, all of it so different than we humans do.  He models and teaches a life for us that is literally running completely opposite to the ways of the world and this was so important for us to see and understand as we start to dive deeper and deeper into Jesus’ teaching.  I really wanted you to see that concept last week, because let’s face if we were to fill in the blank on this statement “I am blessed when __________.”  I’m pretty confident we wouldn’t be filling in that blank with things like I’m blessed when I’m at the end of my rope, or when I mourn, or when my faith provokes persecution…no, for me I would be answering that very differently.  But it’s something we need to see, when we live out a life centered on those 8 “you are blessed when” statements we literally become the kind of disciples on this Earth that Jesus would want us to be.  Think about how challenging life is at times.  Now think about how different life would be if in all those really challenging and hurtful times, in all the adversity and the painful moments of life, if all that mess just pushed you deeper into God’s arms.  We would literally be untouchable in our time on this planet, because we would be that centered on God in both the good times when life is singing like a song and in the bad times when life is hitting hard…and I have told you time and time again that life will hit you hard at times, and our response to life is very important.

So this is where we have been and I think it really gives us two very important things to look at as we get into Jesus’ statement about salt, light, and us being a city on a hill.

The first thing that is important to understand is who Jesus is talking to…he isn’t talking to just anybody.  He is talking to the committed disciples who climbed with the hill with him.

The second thing is Jesus has just set an incredible tone with these 8 “You are blessed when” statements that really sets the tone on how we should live our lives.  No, they weren’t easy statements but when we grab hold of them and live them out, we truly are blessed because God is in all of our lives with us…the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Which is huge because what Jesus says next is so important, but is also very challenging as you will see as we jump into this today, with all of that said, let’s really get into this today…

Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.  NIV

So remember who Jesus is talking to here.  He is talking to His disciples and he describes them two ways…as salt and light which are really important ways to describe a disciple and I want to look at why.

Jesus says this in verse 13, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

So you might be wondering, why would Jesus call us the salt of the Earth?  Well back in Jesus’ time salt was very valuable and had many different jobs.  The Roman soldiers were actually paid in salt which I thought is a pretty interesting way to be paid.  You and I wouldn’t be that excited to go to work tomorrow and have our boss pay us in salt but it was huge to have salt in Jesus’ time.  Salt did many things it helped flavor food which we still use it for today, but one of the most important things is that you would use salt to keep your meat and foods from spoiling and going bad.  This is what Jesus is saying we are the salt, literally working to push back the rotting, decaying sin-filled world.  Then he goes on with this…

Vs 14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.  NIV

So Jesus looks at His disciples and says that we Christian’s are to be the salt of the Earth and we are the light of the world.  Well what does light do?  It pushes back darkness doesn’t it?  It stands out in the darkest places and illuminates our surroundings and this is Jesus’ call to you and I.  Jesus says, you live in a dark culture that is rotting away.  You are the salt of the earth.  You are the light of the world.  It’s you.  That’s why you are here.  I am establishing God’s kingdom in your heart so that you will go make a difference.  How you do it is up to you, but you’re here to make a difference.  You are at your best when you connect with others.  You are at your best when you are serving others and engaging to bless others.  This is the heart of what Jesus is saying here and I think this really comes out in the Message version.

Matthew 5:13 “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. 14 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. 15 If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. 16 Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand — shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. MSG

So Jesus says that it’s our job to bring out the God flavors of this world, to bring out the God-colors in this world as our light shines.  We aren’t to keep the Good News of God’s love a secret…no we are to share it, to spread it, and to give everyone an opportunity to come to know and experience God’s love and grace and incredible forgiveness as we are experiencing it.  This is what it is all about.  Jesus is talking to His disciples…saying your job is to take God to those who don’t know Him so they can experience Him too!  This is why you who know Jesus exist.  This is why you are here.

So if Jesus would say this is why those of us committed to him exist to be the salt and the light of this world.  This means that we who are Christian’s are literally on this planet with a mission and a purpose, and that is to help everyone around experience Him.  Which may make you think a little bit today, it sure does for me.  This really becomes the one thing that is always in the forefront of my mind, that often leads to a lot of confusion and frustration and frankly hurts for me on a personal level if I’m being really honest.  Here’s my question, this is the thing that keeps me up at night.

Why aren’t we actually doing what Jesus asked us to do?

Since I was a young boy I would read Jesus’ teaching and I always found it to be clear, Jesus wants us who know Him to help others meet and experience Him.  I grew up a Pastor’s son, and was around the church and Christian’s a lot and I never understood why the very thing Jesus asked us to do, seemed to be the last thing we would ever do.  It confused me, and frustrated me and frankly I have spent most of my life wondering if I am just crazy for thinking we should actually live out what Jesus asked us to do, and here’s my conclusion.  I’m not crazy…I know, I know, that is debatable! Ha!  But while I’m not crazy it is very rare to see Christian’s actually living out these words.  So the question remains and I want to leave it sit here for a moment.  Why aren’t we doing this?

Let’s go back to Jesus’ teaching here for a moment…

Vs 14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.  NIV

So Jesus is saying something very important here, light is pretty visible in the darkness, and we should stand out and I think this is very important for us to talk about for a moment.  We are to be the light of the world.  We aren’t to hide that light we are to let it shine.  Now let’s think about this, where is light most noticeable?  Does light stand out when surrounded by the light or does light stand out the most in the dark?  It’s so interesting to me how many Christian’s find Christ, are just over whelmed that God would love them this way, then they read Jesus’ teaching, literally studying things like what we are studying today in the Sermon on the Mount and what do they do?  Step into their church, find friends in their church, want programing, small groups, and discipleship from their church, and spend all their time focused inside the church while putting expectations on the church to help them have friendship, community, fun, etc.  And what do I see?  I see the light of the world taking their light to the lightest place.  Which doesn’t seem right.  This to me is hiding my light.  Now please here me, there is a place for Christian programs, there is a place for discipleship and small groups I mean we are having a picnic this afternoon so I’m not anti-church activity guy.  There is something to see here though.  I’m trying to say that while we who know Christ and are committed to Him hang out together there are people all around us who are dying and going to hell.  This is what keeps me up at night.  This is what I struggle with the most as a Pastor of a church.  How do I navigate life in the culture we live in where most Christian’s or church people have specific expectations of what church should be and look like for them, all while trying to build a church for people to connect with Christ who desperately need Him and while empowering the Christians into the mission of Christ which would then keep us in line with Jesus’ teaching which I committed my life to teaching as accurately as I possibly can?  This is a challenge.   Jesus says that I’m to let my light shine, and I keep thinking my light doesn’t really stand out in the light, it stands out in the darkest places.  I think many Christian’s read and agree with Jesus here…but would go back to songs they sang in Sunday School and would say to hide their light under a bushel is to walk in the sinful ways of this world.  I can buy that a bit, but I would also say there is no place my light gets smothered out more than in the brightest places.  Which is an interesting thought right?  Jesus seems to be telling me to take Him to people who need to know Him more so than to just hang out inside the church walls.  I mean where did Jesus hang out, who was He trying to help?  Those of us who are far from God!  He didn’t even really get along well with the religious leaders of his day did he…well I will say I find some encouragement in that, but I digress.  Look at where and who Jesus spent His time with…

Matthew 9:10 Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. 11 When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riff-raff?” 12 Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? 13 Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” MSG

I have always found it amazing how God works.  He loves us so much that He would send Jesus to this Earth to die for our sins giving us eternal life and while Jesus is here He literally teaches both through His words and His actions how we should live our lives as a disciple of Jesus…and the church people of His time really struggle to understand what He was doing.  Jesus’ light shines bright in the darkest places.

So this is a big moment for us today and I don’t want to just breeze through this because I’m not sure there is anything more important than us understanding what Jesus is asking of us here as those who are committed to Him.  We are the salt and the light of this world and our job is to push back on this sinful, busted up world and to help others experience what we have and are experiencing which is God’s love pouring into us and transforming us from the inside out.  I believe the more we study Jesus’ teaching and look at his expectations of us Christians the less we should be asking what the church can offer me next and the more we should be asking some bigger questions like these…

Why?  Why be the salt and light to this world?  I always like to say the “why” matters and when it comes to why would I step into the darkness and let my light shine, well it’s because the stakes are so high for all of those you come in contact with.  We can lose sight of this but the reality is that our time on this Earth is short, and then we have all of eternity to come, and not everyone is going to eternal paradise.  This means the stakes are extremely high this is why we would be the light of the world.

How?  How in the world can I be the salt and light of the world?  I think this is a great question.  We may be sitting here today and thinking, you know what I do want to help connect people to God’s love, I do want to be a light in the darkness but how in the world do I do that?  You know, I think this is something that many of us inside the church make much, much more complicated than it needs to be.  It isn’t about memorizing a testimonial story, or selling them on something…you want to know what it’s about?  It’s about simply being yourself and loving on people right where they are.  It’s not any more complicated than that.  Just be you, and show love to those in need of it…just like you.  The best thing to do is literally think about the people around you, and to do your best to step into their shoes, and just love on them right where they are.  So many Christian’s over complicate the idea of making disciples, but the reality is it’s about us loving on people right where they are…simply being ourselves and loving others, and allowing God to do what only He can really do in their lives.  I know, I know we need schedules, and details, and programs, and some kind of way to take all the huge theological gems of scripture to people who don’t know God, I get it…but I would give you a better option…just simply be yourself.  You don’t need a script.  You don’t need a plan, or every detail.  Just breathe through your nose and be yourself…don’t get overwhelmed, just be you.  Jesus says it better than I do…

Matthew 10:41 “This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. 42 Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.” MSG

So how do we do this?  We are simply ourselves, loving on people right where they are…engaging the messiness of life so others can experience the very thing we are and if you think about it that way, it would mean that this could happen in your everyday life can’t it.  This means that you have a greater purpose in your work life during the week, much more so than just showing up and collecting a pay check.  This means that you can bring this God light into school, your children’s sports teams, the grocery store…everywhere you go because here is what I know.  All week long we are walking by people who need to know Christ and need His grace as we do.  People who need the same eternal paradise that you and I are so grateful to have in their lives too!  The last big question I have for you today is an important one.

Who?  Who do you know who needs to know Christ’s love?  Who do you know that is far from God, who is in need of the amazing love that you know and feel in your heart?  Who do you care about, work with, or walk in relationship with who needs Jesus?  I want you to write down that person’s or persons name and pray for them, build into their lives, and make a new commitment to bring salt and light into their world this week and beyond.

Today’s message is an important one to me because it is Jesus once again showing us, and telling us how to live.  If you notice, Jesus’ way of doing life will always pull the focus off of ourselves and onto others who need God too.  We have been called to so much more than showing up and doing church on a weekly basis.  We have been called to be the salt and light of this world. We literally have the honor of serving God’s greater kingdom work, which changes eternal destinies and my prayer for our church is that we never lose sight of this mission that Jesus invites us into.  May we never turn inward and forget that there are people all around us who are dying and going to hell each and every day.  So as we leave here this week let’s make a commitment to bring out the God light in this broken world.