Reading Time: 8 Minutes
Ray Martin often imagines himself in the middle of a Bible scene when he reads a Bible passage. He is probably such a good children’s teacher, because of the way he approaches the Bible.
Let’s try out Ray’s method and put ourselves on the mountain with Jesus today. Which person in the crowd are you most like? Are you one of Jesus followers, who left your business and family to follow him? Are you one of the sick or demonized whom he healed? Are you just curious and checking him out?
In your imagination you see that Jesus has just finished telling the crowd about who he considers blessed. Jesus pauses a moment to take a breath and you think he’s going to explain some of the difficult “blessings” he has just talked about. But no, he starts speaking again.
He says, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5.13-16).
Jesus stops speaking for a moment and you wonder, “Is this message for me, or is it just for the front-row-crowd of ‘insider’ followers?”
As Jesus wets his lips from a jug of water, you think to yourself, “If I am supposed to do something with this message, what is it?”
Is this message for me?
Just as on that day on the mountain, there are many different kinds of people who follow Jesus today. Some seem to have front-row seats and are insiders. Others feel like they are on the fringes and just looking in. No matter where you find yourself in the crowd, the question is whether this message is for you or only for super-Christians?
In case you don’t know, I am a big fan of Coach Jake Taylor. After preaching for 50 years, I know something about preachers and I believe in my heart that he is the perfect leader for Maywood Baptist Church. If you were to ask Coach Jake if this message from Jesus’ sermon is for you, he’d probably reply by opening his Bible to Ephesians.
Coach Jake would read, “But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said,
‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
he gave gifts to his people.’
9 (When it says, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ” (Ephesians 4.7-13).
To better answer your question, Jake might point out two ideas from this passage. He might say, “God has given gifts to different people. The people on the front row who seem to be what you call ‘super Christians,’ are just gifted in a different manner than you.”
“Okay,” you say. “Where do I fit in? I really do feel like a back-row person.”
Jake says, “Gifted Christians are supposed to use their gifts to equip you to be of service. They also can help you grow in your relationship with Jesus, but then you do the same thing with someone else.”
Jake has helped clear up something for you and you say, “So, I’m not off the hook. What Jesus and Paul are teaching includes me, too.”
“Absolutely true,” said Jake.
The Point of the Story
You probably knew the answer to all of these questions before the story began. However, I sense that many people excuse themselves from being “salt” and “light” by a belief that there are different levels of following Jesus.
The reason why the paid leadership at Maywood are called “coaches,” is to emphasize a major point. A coach is a very important member of a team, but he or she is not the superstar. From the front row to the back row of the church, every person is an important member of the team. God leaves no one out of the joy of working with him.
What am I supposed to do?
As you imagine yourself still on the mountain with Jesus and his followers, one of Jesus’ front-row-guys near to you. You whisper to him, “Pssst, if I want to be ‘salt’ and ‘light,’ what am I supposed to do?”
Jesus is talking with someone near the front, so the man can quickly give you two things to think about. He says, “Both salt and light work in contrast to what is around them. When you put salt on your food, you are adding seasoning that is not already there. We know the light is shining, because it removes the darkness.”
“Oh,” you say. “If I am just like everybody else around me, they won’t know that I am ‘salt’ or ‘light.'”
“That’s right,” replies the front-row-guy, sensing that Jesus was about to speak again. Then, quickly he whispers. “One more thing. Salt doesn’t work as long as it’s still in the salt-shaker and if you hide a candle under something the room stays dark.”
The Secret to Good Preaching
All good preaching says the same thing three times, so they say, whoever “they” is. First, the preacher says it. Second, the preacher tells you what he has just said. Third, he tells you what to do with what he has said.
In the spirit of good preaching, here is what I have just said. No one who is following Jesus is exempt from being “salt” and “light.” Both “salt” and “light” are only effective when they contrast to unsalted food and darkness. Neither “salt” or “light” will work when still in the salt-shaker or under a bushel.
Here’s what to do with what I said.
(1) Make sure you are a contrast to the people around you. The remainder of the Sermon on the Mount will challenge all of us to be different from the customs of the world.
(2) Come into contact with someone who needs your “salt” and “light.” The only way that Maywood Baptist and the other churches in our area will transform western Independence is by getting out of our comfort zones and into meaningful contact with people.
(3) Hint: People who work 12 Step programs are in an excellent place to be both “salt” and “light” while observing the traditions of those programs.
Dear Jesus, please don’t let us listen to your message today and then do nothing about it. Please help Maywood people and other folks in western Independence to be “salt” and “light” in our area. Please don’t let us escape your message here. Hold us to it.