“13) Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. 14) Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15) Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16) Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:13-16)
When we consider the steady decline to ungodliness in our culture, it is easy to blame everyone else instead of truly examining ourselves in the church. I believe the steady decline in morality around us is a direct reflection of the impact of the church as salt and light on the culture around us. If our culture is decaying around us, it is because the salt of the church is not preserving the culture. If darkness is prevailing, it is because the light of the world is not shining forth properly and have put our candlestick under a bushel. When you go to the doctor, you don’t blame him for the reality of your diagnosis. You should want your physician to tell you the truth of what is wrong with you so you can remedy the problem. You also don’t put your head in the sand and ignore the doctor’s counsel and diagnosis – you are having these symptoms, so therefore, you have this problem. We must consider the church’s salt and light effect in the culture around us that is rapidly deteriorating.
It’s easy to point fingers at others for this moral decline around us – politicians, Gates/Soros, Deep State, the list of scapegoats goes on and on. In reality, if you’ve read history at all (or the Bible at all), you should know this world has always been evil, and it shouldn’t surprise us when naturally wicked people act wickedly. That is the natural disposition of this world, to have darkness, secrecy, violence, power, and oppression. Instead, I believe this decline in our culture is a direct reflection of the decline in the church in America. If our culture and nation appear to be decaying around us, decay occurs because of unsavory, unpreserving salt. What we see around us is a direct reflection of the poor quality of the church’s salt, and that our salt has remained in its shaker instead of being poured out in this world. We are not doing our job as the church to preserve and prevent decay around us. If darkness appears to be winning and prevailing around us, that is a reflection of how dim the light of the church has gotten in this world. We are supposed to be the light of the world, but we’ve got very comfortable in our Laodicean lukewarm state, with a bushel over our light in the public arena.
In Christianity, there are many supposed churches (supposed to a called-out, sanctified assembly, but there is very little sanctified about it) that look just like the world. It’s a sad reality that the church and “Christians” are becoming essentially indistinguishable from the world. The same scandals we see in the world of sexual abuse, embezzlement, and fraud occur in these churches. The worship of certain churches is indistinguishable from a rock concert, and the sermons could easily be the message at any humanistic self-help seminar. This is what has happened in the “seeker-sensitive movement” in Christianity. In an effort to attract more people to “save souls to heaven”, the church has compromised to look just like the world so more “worldly people” will come in. In reality, many churches are just “entertaining the goats” instead of “feeding the sheep”. The church is not supposed to look at all like the world; we are supposed to look like an exact 180-degree opposite of the world.
Then, apart from the public worship of the church, the members of the church oftentimes act just like the sinful world around them. The church has become almost indistinguishable from the world. God says that “friendship with the world is enmity with God; whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). We can’t be friends with the world and whole-heartedly serve God. We can’t serve two masters, both God and mammon. Jesus said “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!” (Luke 6:26). We are not called to be popular in this world, and if you are popular with the world, that is a good indication we are much too friendly with the world. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Tim. 3:12) If we are committed to living godly in this world, there will be some degree of “persecution”, ridicule, or trouble with this world. If we are not feeling some type of friction with this world, we really need to examine just how godly we are living because if we live godly in Jesus Christ we shall suffer persecution. God does not call us to be attractive to the world. No, the exact opposite. God calls us to “come out from among them and be ye separate” from the world (2 Cor. 6:17). There’s no way you can confuse light with darkness; they are polar opposites; darkness is the absence of light; if the church as the light of world looks dark, it is because our light has been put under a bushel.
This is hard to hear – I don’t like the doctor telling me I’m sick either – but the symptoms around us should lead us to a clear diagnosis. Not to blame others for our cultural problems and moral decline, but for the church to look introspectively at our actions. The church has become almost indistinguishable from the world. If we do not increase our effect in our culture, Jesus declares that unsavory salt is not good for anything but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men. The church is in danger of total irrelevance and being cast out and trodden over if we do not repent. The church has been a slumbering giant in our culture, and we need to wake up (consider 1 Thess. 5:5-8). Our salt has remained in its shaker instead of being poured out in our communities around us. Our light has been covered by a bushel for too long and has ceased to give radiant light to this world. We need recommit to “shake and shine”. Shake out that savory salt in the community around you. Put away your bushel and let your light brightly shine out to a dark world.
(By the way – food for thought – the primary way you are salt and light in this culture is not by posting on Facebook, Twitter, or social media. Posting a rant or complaining about how bad things are is acting just like everyone else in the world. Rather, it is by showing the light of Christ by the gospel to your family, friends, co-workers, and community around you that we impact and change this culture. It is by engaging and investing in people around you that we enact positive change, not by posting a rant on social media. That’s acting just like the world, and we need to act different than the world. When others are inciting and promoting violence, the church are the peacemakers. When others use hateful rhetoric, we speak the truth in love, our speech always with grace, seasoned with salt.)
When we let our light shine, we live counter-cultural. We don’t act like everyone else in the world does, and it will draw attention to us. If we live godly in a dark culture, we will stand out in a crowd. Therefore, we have to be strong and resolute to not let public pressure make us afraid and put our light under a bushel when scrutiny and even persecution comes. When we live as salt and light, we live contrary to this world, counter to the culture. What does salt and light look like in action for the church? Well, Jesus described what a salt and light life looks like in action throughout the rest of the sermon on the mount.
The actions of the church and Christians should be radically different that the world around us. The world thinks it is acceptable to hate a brother in your heart and call them derogatory names, but the Christian goes and asks forgiveness of the brother instead of hating them (Matt. 5:21-26). The world thinks it is okay to sleep around, watch pornography, and cheat on your wife. The Christian keeps his heart pure and rejects temptation for sexual infidelity and rejects pornography (Matt. 5:27-30). The world (and sadly many Christians nowadays too; just a reflection of how decayed our salt really is) believes it is okay to divorce someone when they “fall out of love”, get tired of their spouse, or just simply want another spouse. We treat marriage like the return aisle at Walmart – I picked someone out that interested me, but now I’m tired of my spouse, so I’ll just trade them in for another spouse. No, the Christian will remain committed to his marriage regardless of how difficult things get, honoring his life-long covenant before God (Matt. 5:31-32). The world thinks it is okay to lie and deceive by your words to advance yourself or get something you want. The Christian is to be a man or woman of their word, taking oaths and promises seriously to not dishonor God by being frivolous with our words (Matt. 5:33-37).
The world thinks if someone wrongs me, then I have right to retaliate, get revenge, and make them pay. The Christian is called to turn the other cheek in love (Matt. 5:38-39). If we really want to let our light shine and be a witness to a wicked world, when someone sues you for your coat, give them your cloak also (Matt. 5:40). If someone compels you to go one mile with them, go over and beyond and go two miles with them instead (Matt. 5:41). Give freely to those that ask you instead of being a selfish, old Scrooge (Matt. 5:42). When the world shows hatred and persecution and oppression to anyone who doesn’t agree with them, the Christian instead shows love to their enemies (Matt. 5:43-44). When others curse you, the Christian should bless them in the name of the Lord. When people take advantage of you and despitefully use you and even persecute you, pray for them to be convicted and repent in Jesus’ name (Matt. 5:44).
When a classmate is being made fun of and bullied, instead of joining in the ridicule, you stand up and defend that person. When an inappropriate joke is made or email sent at work and everyone laughs it up, you don’t laugh along with them. (Don’t be a haughty Pharisee about it, but when others inevitably ask you why you don’t laugh with everyone else, tell them it is glamorizing sin and don’t believe sin is humorous.) When your friends (and even fellow Christians) use OMG or take the Lord’s name in vain, lovingly exhort them to honor and extol the name of God, not to use the Lord’s name in a cavalier or frivolous way. So many other examples could be given for how we stand out in a crowd when we live a life filled with salt and light.
These actions are all radically counter-cultural. People will take notice of these actions that are so contrary to the world. When we live contrary to the world in this way, people will take notice. Those who live in darkness hate the light and will try to shut you up and get you to quit shining your light (John 3:19-21). Don’t be discouraged because on the other end of the spectrum, those children of God who love light as well will be attracted to your light, like a moth to a flame. Those disciples of Christ that also love light will be drawn to your light and want to inquire about your faith. That is how our churches grow, by the church shining out a counter-cultural life in this world and people being attracted to that light and inquiring about your church to come and see.
We, as the church, need to view this time as an opportunity. We have an opportunity to make a huge, dramatic impact in the culture around us. The more decay we see around us, the more immediate, direct impact some preserving salt can provide. The darker the world becomes the more impact one small light can have. We are in the prime position for our little churches to shine forth the light of the gospel to an ever-darkening world. For so long in America, the church didn’t stand out as much because our laws and leaders and society were generally moral. A Christian’s light didn’t manifest as much because the general society was pretty well lit. (That is also a great commendation of the church in America during that time. Their light was bright, and their salt was savory. But the church’s light has now dimmed, and the salt is not too savory.) However, now that our culture is darkening, it is regressing back to the mean of this world and wickedness that is the norm in this world. The darker this world becomes, the more impact one small light can shine forth in a much broader way than before. Now is the time for the church – for all the disciples of Jesus Christ – as the light of the world to shine forth in midst of a darkening world. Now is the time for the salt of the earth to be savoury. Church, it is time to wake up to SHAKE and SHINE!
Click here to listen to audio sermon on “Shake & Shine” in another window.