“LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE…”
On the eve of his election in 1980 President Ronald Reagan spoke of John Winthrop’s shining “city on a hill.” That’s how Reagan saw the United States of America in 1980. And that’s also how he saw it on January 11, 1989 when, at the conclusion of his farewell speech to the nation, he said…
“I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with com-merce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it and see it still.
“And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that: After 200 years, two cen-turies, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the Pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home. We’ve done our part. And as I “walk off into the city streets,” a final word to the men and women of the Reagan Revolution – the men and women across America who for eight years did the work that brought America back: My friends, we did it. We weren’t just marking time, we made a difference. We made the city stronger – we made the city freer – and we left her in good hands. All in all, not bad. Not bad at all. And so, goodbye. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.”
Once we had a President! So both on the eve of his election in 1980, and on his departure from the White House in 1989, Ronald Reagan quoted John Winthrop.
Who was John Winthrop? He was an English Christian who became the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1630 he led eleven ships filled with over one thousand Puritans to Massachusetts with a charter that called for them to be an example to the world of right living before God. It was their intent to be a light, a beacon for all of Europe, “A Model of Christian Charity,” in Winthrop’s words. Listen to him…
“For we must consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us; so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have under-taken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God and all who profess for God’s sake.
We shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us till we be consumed out of the good land whither we are going. And to shut up this discourse with that exhortation of Moses, that faithful servant of the Lord in his last farewell to Israel in Deuteronomy 30.
“Beloved there is now set before us life and good, and death and evil in that we are commanded this day to love the Lord our God, to love one another, to walk in His ways, and to keep His Commandments, His Ordinance, His laws, and the Articles of our Covenant with Him so that we may live and be multiplied, and that the Lord our God may bless us in the land whither we go to possess it. But if our hearts shall turn away so that we will not obey, but shall be seduced and worship other gods, our plea-sures, our profits, and serve them, it is propounded unto us this day, we shall surely perish out of the good land whither we pass over this vast sea to possess it. There-fore let us choose life that we and our seed (or children) may live by obeying His voice, and cleaving to Him, for He is our life and our prosperity.”
Such were the principles that accompanied the founding of the early colonies in America in 1630. One hundred forty-six years later, in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was drawn up and signed by those men we now call our “Founding Fathers.” Nearly all of them were descended from those Puritans. It’s true that not every one of those founders was a Bible-believing Christian as we know the term, but they were virtually all guided and driven by the principles found in John Winthrop’s Massachusetts Bay Colony Charter of 1630.
For us, as Americans, may they be the principles that we remember and celebrate this July 4th weekend. But for you and me, as Bible-believing Christians, may they be the principles that we remember and celebrate in the church every day of our lives. After all, should not our light be shining? Are we not Lighthouse Bible Church?
We know where Ronald Reagan got his inspiration for that shining city on a hill. He got it
from John Winthrop. But from where did John Winthrop get it? He got it from God’s Word.
*Matthew 5:13-16 (Please stand with me in honor of reading God’s Word.)
13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;
15 nor do men light a lamp and put it under a peck-measure, but on the lamp-stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Notice that these four verses follow immediately upon the heels of what we commonly call “The Beatitudes.” While vv. 13-16 can certainly be appreciated when standing alone, their full meaning is only enhanced and intensified when we see their connection to vv. 3-9. How can we be salt and light? Living according to the Beatitudes reflects a Christian character that the world neither possesses nor understands.
• “Blessed are the poor in spirit…(v. 3)” That isn’t poverty of material wealth. It is the spiritual poverty of all men apart from their relationship to God.
• “Blessed are those who mourn…(v. 4)” The Lord isn’t talking about the sorrow and sadness that all human beings periodically experience. He’s talking about godly sorrow. He’s talking about mourning over our sin.
• “Blessed are the gentle (meek)…(v. 5)” Meekness is not weakness. It is power kept under control. It is the very opposite of violence and vengeance.
• “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…(v. 6)” This isn’t akin to the hunger you feel when you’ve missed a meal or need a glass of water on a hot day. For the unbeliever it is salvation – the desire to be saved from sin. For the believer it is sanctification – the desire to become more like Jesus.
• “Blessed are the merciful…(v. 7)” This is mercy as it is seen in Christ. It mani-fests itself in forgiveness, in love, in grace, and even in judgment.
• “Blessed are the pure in heart…(v. 8)” The Bible often uses the word “heart” in reference to our minds, our emotions, our motives, and our attitudes. In other words, not so much what we do, but what we are. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As (a man) thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (KJV) Genuine purity of heart is impossi-ble for men. It is only possible through the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
• “Blessed are the peacemakers…(v. 9)” Just as God is the source of all genuine purity, so too is He the source of all genuine peace. People think of peace as the absence of conflict or war, but God’s peace is infinitely more. His peace is inextricably linked to His righteousness. Without the righteousness of God there can be no genuine peace.
So in consideration of Matthew 5:3-9 ask yourself, “Am I being salt and light?” How do I ‘taste’ to the world around me? How do I look to the world around me?” Or think of it this way: How do you influence, how do you affect the world around you? Are you humble and broken before God, gentle, desirous of knowing Him better than you already do? Do you display mercy, purity of heart, and God’s peace in all that you do and say?
You do influence, you do have an effect, you know. You may say, “Oh, I am a very quiet and insignificant person. I have no particular effect on the people around me.” But you are wrong. You do. One of the most famous poems in the English language affirms that truth. Listen to poet and theologian John Donne.
“No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less. As well as if a promontory were (washed away). As well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were (washed away):
Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
John Donne was right. You and I are not islands; we are involved in mankind. Thus we are salt and light whether or not we choose to be. We influence the world around us for good or evil. Matthew 5:13-16 exhorts us to influence it for good. We are called to influence the world, not to be influenced by the world. And so we’re reminded of that old cliché, “Chris-tians are to be in the world, but not of the world.” The Apostle John says as much.
1 John 2:15-16
15 Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.
What are God promises to those of us who strive to live according to His standard for bles-sing? In Matthew 5 God promises us the kingdom of heaven (v. 3); comfort (v. 4); an inheri-tance of peace on this earth (v. 5); spiritual satisfaction (v. 6); mercy (v. 7); and He promises us that we will see Him, and be called His children (vv. 8-9).
What promises! If you truly believe them, will you not live your life reflecting them? Yes, you will! And if you do, will not the people of this world be impressed and love you for it? A few will, but most will not. It is certainly true that living a righteous life, a life that is a reflection of God’s promises will convince, convict, and be the means of spiritual conversion for some. But Jesus said that in living that life the lost world will persecute you, insult you, accuse you, and lie about you. And what will be the result?
10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.
12 “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they perse-
cuted the prophets who were before you.”
The best proof of your salvation in Christ is that the world will insult you, accuse you, and lie about you. You already know that, don’t you? Do you remember what the Apostle Paul told his young protégé Timothy? He said, “And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).” Listen, persecution is normal for Christians.
16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
In Matthew 5:10 the apostle tells us that the outcome of that persecution and suffering is our entrance into the kingdom of heaven. God is telling us that persecution and suffering are literally blessings from heaven. In Philippians 1:29 Paul says, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…” God allows us to suffer temporarily in order that we may be blessed eternally. Look once more at Matthew 5:12 – “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great…”
But there is another side to this that you don’t want to miss. Paul tells us that while persecu-tion is proof of your salvation, it is also proof of your persecutor’s damnation. Philippians 1:28 says such persecution is “…a sign of destruction for them…and that too, from God.”
Before we go on I would ask you to take a moment and think about this: Could anything bring you closer to Christ than sharing in His persecution and sufferings? And could any-thing show your commitment to Him more than joyfully accepting those persecutions and sufferings? “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great (Matthew 5:12).”
We began by talking about letting our light shine in this world. It’s all about how we influ-ence the world around us. It’s all about how we look and how we “taste.”
13 “You are the salt of the earth…”
Before modern refrigeration, salt was used to preserve food. (Salt absorbs water and leaves no moisture to support the growth of mold or bacteria.) Food that is left unrefrigerated (or unsalted) will soon become corrupted. That is to say it will rot and decay. This world is corrupted by sin. As such, it is rotting and decaying before our very eyes. Jesus said that, guided and directed by the Holy Spirit, the church is the one thing that can preserve a rotting and decay-ing world. That is why He says that Christians are the salt of the earth.
Listen, apart from the influence of Christians in this world there is no positive influence at all. That is not a rash statement. In this world things do not get better – they only get worse. Corruption does not cure itself; it only multiplies. Rot and decay do not repair themselves; they only spread. Paul told Timothy that “…evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Timothy 2:13).” (read MacArthur – Matthew, p. 238)
Even with the influence of the church, our world is rushing headlong toward total corruption at an ever-increasing pace. That corruption will come to its full fruition after the rapture of the church, and when the Antichrist is revealed in the middle of the Great Tribulation. Then there will be no “salt.” But in the meantime, we Christians are the salt.
However, the great tragedy of our day is that the church is more influenced by the world than the world is influenced by the church. It was not always that way. But too much of the modern church thinks the world can be saved by making itself like the world. But that is sheer insanity. By definition, an influence must be different from what it is trying to influ-ence. Someone has said that “When the church becomes like the world, the world no longer needs the church.”
In the ancient world salt was among the most valuable commodities. It was held to be of infinitely more value than it is today. Roman soldiers were often paid with salt. In fact, that’s where the expression “…not worth his salt” came from. Salt was used as an official sign or mark of treaties, covenants, and agreements, much the way we notarize things today. All of that to point out that when Jesus said Christians are the salt of the earth, it was clearly understood that He was assigning great value, worth, and importance to His people and the influence, the effect that the church would have on the world.
May I suggest that our influence should be that of joyful and positive people? After all, do we not have much to be joyful and positive about? The world should want what we have, shouldn’t it? But we too often present an image that seems to be intent on “raining on other people’s parades.” Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that he might have entered the minis-try, but too many of the clergymen he knew looked and acted like undertakers. Listen, God did not call us to be boring!
If you and I are hypocritical, self-righteous, or judgmental we are not acting like Christians; we are acting like Pharisees.
*2 Corinthians 2:14-17
14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.
15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; (We influence everyone around us.)
16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?
17 For we are not like many, peddling the Word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God. (back to Matthew 5:13)
What does salt symbolize? Some say that because salt is white it could symbolizes purity. We are called to be pure in heart. But salt’s color isn’t the issue. Saltiness is the issue. Some say that because salt adds flavor to otherwise bland food it could symbolize the desire of the world for the church. But from the Day of Pentecost the lost have not been looking for the church to add “flavor” to their lives. Some say that since salts stings an open wound it could symbolize the sting of the conscience when the gospel is presented. And some say that salt causes one to become thirsty for the truth. All of these points have some degree of validity to them. But the real issue is that salt preserves.
You and I are to be an agent of preservation. How so? We are called to do all we can to hold back the spiritual rot that infests the world around us. Earlier I mentioned the Tribula-tion. When the church is removed at the Rapture, Satan and his demons will reign over this world and wreak havoc as they have never before been permitted to do.
*2 Thessalonians 2:6-12
6 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he may be revealed.
7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.
8 And then that lawless one (the Antichrist) will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming.
9 that is, the one (the Antichrist) whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders,
10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.
11 And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false.
12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. (back to Matthew 5)
Yet while we are still here, we are still salt.
13b “…but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.”
Let’s be very clear about this. This verse is not talking about salvation. A Christian cannot lose his or her salvation. Jesus said…
27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;
28 and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.”
So Christians cannot lose their salvation, but they can lose their effectiveness for Christ. If they do they can no longer be a positive influence for their Lord and Savior. And, in that context, Matthew 5:13 says they are “…good for nothing anymore.” May Jesus never say that about any of us!
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
Not only are we called to be salt, we are also called to be light. Consider the differences between the two.
Salt refers primarily to the life we live. It has to do with what we are and how we “taste” to the world. Light is primarily about what we say, what we preach and teach. It has to do with what we tell the world. Notice that Jesus doesn’t say that we are free to pick one or the other. We cannot have the personality of a coiled rattle snake and expect the world to joy-fully receive our message about Jesus. Neither can we be sweet, kind, and gentle, but never open our mouths about the truth of the gospel. Jesus says we are called to be salt and light.
Salt does its work from within and in secret. Light does its work from without and in the open. Salt is negative in that it retards corruption. Light is positive in that it reveals incor-ruption. Listen to just a few of the things Scripture says about light.
Psalm 36:9 (David praising God)
6 For with You is the foundation of life; in Your light we see light.
105 Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.
1 John 1:5-7
5 And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;
7 but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
And if it can be said that one verse is more significant than another, then this may be one such verse…
12 Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
This is why we are called Lighthouse Bible Church. From the beginning our goal has been to proclaim Jesus as “The Light of the World.” For all of us who are Christians here this morning that should be our goal as well. When we do our part as the salt of the earth we have an indirect influence on the lost. When we do our part as the light of the world we have a direct influence on them. We are called to be both salt and light.
When we are light we are like that shining city on a hill that both John Winthrop and Ronald Reagan talked about. Matthew 5:14 says that city cannot be hidden.
15 “…nor do men light a lamp and put it under a peck-measure, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.”
The light from such a place cannot be hidden… unless someone covers up the light and tries to keep it from illuminating the world around them. But who would do such a thing?
Sadly, many Christians seem to be engaged in doing just that. I hope that none of us are sec-ret Christians. Keeping the good news of the gospel to ourselves is like putting God’s light under a basket. Ask yourself, “What good is my light if no one can see it?” The answer…
16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Just to be clear – You do understand that the light isn’t yours, don’t you? It’s His. You do not own it; He does. But He gives you and me a choice to make with the light that we have the privilege of sharing with a lost and dying world. We can hide it or we can let it shine. Letting it shine is a good work that has nothing to do with earning salvation. Rather, it has everything to do with the proof of your salvation.
Back in Matthew 5:3-10 Jesus laid out for us just how we can be salt and light in this world. If we humble ourselves before Him; if we have genuine sorrow for our sin; if we cultivate a gentle spirit; if we truly desire to know Christ more than we do today; if we show mercy; if we are pure in heart; if we strive to be at peace with others, and if we find ourselves perse-cuted for the sake of Christ, we will truly be the salt of the earth. And if we faithfully tell others about the Lord Jesus, we will truly be the light of the world.
And what will be our reward for such faithful obedience? We will be given the kingdom of heaven; we will be comforted; we will inherit the earth; we will be satisfied; we will receive mercy; we shall see God; and we will be called His children.
This morning we find ourselves in the midst of a three-day holiday weekend. Many of you have plans for a variety of activities both today and tomorrow. You may be seeing people you only rarely see. As you come in contact with them please think about how you influ-ence the world. Will your salt be “seasoning” them with the character of Christ? Will your light be illuminating them with His gospel?
May we all make the most of the opportunities God gives us.
~ Pray ~