“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has 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).
In the midst of suffering for righteousness sake, the spirit of man is prone to depression. The soul begins to wonder if all of the mental stress, and abuse, is worth it all. “Why should a professing Christian become the object of lies, deceit, and trickery, for no other reason than the unhappiness of another?” “Why should God’s people be the object of ridicule, and scorn?” “When a Christian takes a public moral position on a sensitive subject, why should he, or she, be made to appear irrational by the news media?”
To the question of worthwhile suffering Jesus does three things. First, He pronounces a blessing in Matthew 5:11. Second, Christ identifies such suffering with the prophets of God, and with Himself. Third, the Lord explains something very significant. The Lord declares that it is the Christian community that keeps the nations of the world from total chaos, and self-destruction.
With nuclear annihilation for all mankind within one literal hour a possibility, it is the prevailing influence of people of righteousness that keeps the world today from being blown apart. Jesus said to His disciples, “Ye are the salt of the earth.”
Jesus did not say that religion is the salt of the earth. There are many religions, and multitudes of religious people. But religion, per se, does not preserve a society.
Some religions are oppressive. Some religions demand much, and give little. The scribes and the Pharisees of Judaism bound the souls of people to many insignificant traditions. It is only the true religion of Jesus Christ, found in the hearts of His disciples, that makes the difference whether a society is preserved, or not.
To believe this is not arrogance. It is a simple recognition of what ultimately holds a society together. In every society there are those who fear God, and who love His will, and word. Such people become the salt of the earth. For people with little, or no, social, economic, or political power, the words of Christ were, and are, electrifying. Christ says to His followers in essence, “You, and you alone, are the salt of the earth.” Salt has both a negative, and a positive function. On the negative side, salt combats deterioration.
The Christian community recognizes the destructive elements of homosexuality, abortion on demand, alcoholism, drunkenness, drug addiction, divorce, murder, rape, lying, cheating, stealing, and false doctrine. The Christian community protests, by lifestyle, and by lip, the evil that people would do. But the world does not understand.
Years ago, a group of women in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, got together to plan a surprise party for the president of a real estate company. The ladies thought it would be fun to hire a stripper for the party. It is possible for a group of highly professional women to be without moral consciousness. They could not understand why a Christian woman who worked with them would find the concept revolting, and would not want to contribute to paying for the male stripper.
The world mocks Christian standards, and thinks that someone is out to spoil their fun. One critic said that a Christian is someone who is terrified that a person somewhere, and somehow, is happy. That, of course, is not true. Jesus said that He came to give life, and that more abundantly.
The Christian is just someone who believes that happiness is found in righteousness.
When the church speaks out against sins of the tongue, such as gossip, slander, lying, and verbal cruelty, when the church rebukes the spirit of greed, and covetousness, when the church challenges the temperament of those who make excuses for excessive anger that hurts others, the purpose is positive, though the rebuke itself is negative.
As salt combats physical decay, so the saint wishes to combat moral decay, and the rotting of the human soul. To some observers, it seems as if the Church in the Western world is not having much of an impact on society.
The TV programs are becoming increasing more vulgar, and profane. The contemporary rock music continues to corrupt the minds of the youth with a message that is anti-social, and anti-God.
Jesus warned that such things would happen when He said, “If the salt has lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted.” In the strictest since of the word, salt is pure sodium chloride, and does not deteriorate, or diminish in its savor. Pure salt always remains salt. However, salt can become tasteless, and ineffective through a process of adulteration, contamination, or infiltration.
Salt become tasteless because foreign substances become mixed with it. That is the danger the Church faces. When it happens, the very foundations of society start to tremble.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “The things that destroy America are prosperity at any price, peace at any price, safety first instead of duty first, and the love of soft living, and the get rich quick theory of life.” Such words could easily be directed towards the church. Walter Lippmann gave Christianity a well-deserved rebuke when he wrote that, believers are a group of grimly spiritual persons, devoted to the worship of sonorous generalities.
The Christian community must realize afresh that she is the salt of the earth, and has a preserving influence that needs to be protected. The best protection is to enjoy a measure of spiritual revival. But how does spiritual renewal come? I have long searched for the answer. Dr. R.A. Torrey thought he knew. Writing to the people of his generation, Dr. Torrey said this, “I can give a prescription that will bring a revival to any church or community or any city on earth.
First, let a few Christians (they need not be many) get thoroughly right with God themselves. This is the prime essential. If this is not done, the rest that I am to say will come to nothing. Second, let them bind themselves together in a prayer group to pray for a revival until God opens the heavens and comes down. Third, let them put themselves at the disposal of God for Him to use as He sees fit in winning others to Christ. That is all!”
The prescription Dr. Torrey gives is so simple, and yet so difficult, because there is a price to pay. There is an effort to be made. But it just might happen. If even a few people covenant to pray, and to fast together for God’s grace, spiritual renewal can come. History records that the great revival under Jonathan Edwards, in the eighteenth century, began with his famous call to prayer. The marvelous work of grace among the American Indians under David Brainerd had its origin in the days and nights Brainerd spent before God in prayer for power from on high for his work. We need to pray. We need to pray together as a church. We need to seek God together. When we seek God, and He answers with revival, four things will happen.
First, the church will love to worship. The root word of worship, is “work.” The church will love its spiritual work. Every believer priest will use their spiritual gift to edify, and build up the body of Christ. No longer will people come to services at random. There will be an early eagerness to be in the place of blessing, and to participate. No longer will communion be neglected, or worse, rejected. The Lord has commanded us to often eat with Him, and remember His death until He comes.
The story is told of a father who took his son to visit the country church he used to attend as a boy, and where often he rang the bell to call the people to the house of God for worship. Great was their disappointment when they found the old church locked, and deserted. Looking through a window they could see the long bell rope. The father found a key, and opened the door. The little son looked up into his father’s face, and eagerly exclaimed, “Father, ring it again! Ring it again!”
We want to ring the bells of the heart again here and say, “Come and worship. Come and worship.” If someone believes that we do not worship correctly, show us how. If we do not worship well, help us, for this is certain. If we do not pray together, if we do not worship together, if we do not take communion together, the salt will lose its savor, and will be good for nothing.
Second, when revival comes, truth will be learned, and loved. There is a body of truth once and for all delivered to the saints. Week after week in a variety of ways, the church gathers to study the word of God. Whether truth is learned in public, or in private, there is to be a hunger for the Word of God, and there will be, when spiritual renewal comes.
Third, relationships become precious when the Spirit of God prevails in a place. One of the great things we have in the church, is each other. Sometimes God reminds us of this by placing us in circumstances where it is nice to have someone who cares. When a person is hurting, or when a person is ill, money no longer matters. Success, power, position, prestige, it all becomes meaningless. Does anyone care? That is what a person wants to know. Is there a tender hand, a loving heart, a word of concern, or encouragement?
Finally, there is a longing for spiritual accountability when the Lord visits His people. Christians want to do what is right, and they long for others to help them.
These four elements, worship, truth, relationships, and accountability, when brought together, helps the local church to become strong, and act as a preserving force.
It is proper for God’s people to see themselves as the true preservers of society, as salt, and as light. Dr. William Hendriksen reminds us that light in the Bible indicates the true knowledge of God. “For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light” (Psa. 36:9).
We as Christians, are not light in and of ourselves, but we are light in the Lord. Christians are like the moon. Jesus is like the sun. The moon reflects the sun’s light, so the Christian is designed, and destined to reflect the life of Christ.
The positive command is given. “Let you light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
Commenting on this section, Charles H. Spurgeon noted in earnest, “How this teaches the necessity of final perseverance. The old Puritan divines used to teach that while salvation is by grace through faith alone, yet that faith does not come alone. It is always accompanied by good works that can be seen. As it is foolish to light a candle and then hide that light under a bushel basket so it is foolish to believe that a true Christian can do nothing to reveal a new life. The world needs to see a difference in a person for the expressed purpose of glorifying the Father in heaven.”
I do believe that if the church truly believes herself to be salt, and light, then practice will follow precept, as night follows day. Therefore, let us go now, and be what Christ has declared us to be: salt, and light, moral, and spiritual preservers, of this society.