Being a salt-and-light Christian.
If Jesus was bodily present in our church this morning, we would delight in introducing him to others.
The statisticians tell us that something like 85% [or more] of the British public believe in God. Yet only about 5% attend church on a regular basis [compared to about 12% a decade ago]
Most people are too polite to tell us to our faces but they perceive the Church and Christians as dull and boring and irrelevant.
Most are not interested in committing their lives to Christ unless they observe attractive and consistent patterns of living in the Christians they know. Joe Aldrich, author of the book Life-Style Evangelism, put it like this: “Christians are to be good news before they share the good news.”
Jesus put it like this…Matthew 5:13-16 – “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavour? Can you make it useful again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world – like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
Though it’s tempting, to run ahead and talk about practical tips for communicating our faith would be premature.
Bill Hybels in his book, Being a contagious Christian, points out that in the medical world if someone is going to be contagious they must first have the disease. So in a similar way before we can become highly contagious Christians, salt-and-light Christians, who positively influence others for Christ, we must first live in a way that convinces people around us that we actually have it ourselves!
Note in these verses Jesus asserts that we are salt and light; he says nothing about what we have to say?
- He doesn’t give us a three point evangelistic sermon.
- He doesn’t teach us the four spiritual laws.
- He doesn’t even draw us the bridge illustration.
If we want to be the kind of high-impact salt-and-light Christians that Jesus said that we are to be, we’re going to have to first take some preliminary steps of self-examination and then be willing to make any needed character adjustments. We must start by making certain that the way we live backs up the words we’re speak.
To repeat the cliché, “Does you walk match your talk”.
Jesus knew the importance of perceptions. That’s why He gave us such clear instructions about being salt and light. He knows that as you learn to live out these guidelines in tangible ways, people will begin to “see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
Do you see what Jesus was getting at in these verses in Matthew 5? He was telling us that the attitudes and actions of each of His followers either draw people toward a relationship with God or push them further away.
As we saw last week it is possible to live in the light and / be light and to offend and invite persecution because people who are exposed will either accept Christ or reject him and often persecute the messenger! But let the offence caused be because of the message of the cross and Not because of the messenger.
So Jesus was pleading with His people – then and now – to live in a way that would draw people toward the Father. Think about it: how we conduct our daily lives has implications that reach all the way into eternity.
1. Christians who repel others from Christ.
Salt and Light can be good. But it can also be bad.
The Christian who repels the lost is the salt that has lost its potency and the light that has been hidden. The Christian is not having the desired impact on the people around them.
Let’s look at three types of Christians that repel people from Christ.
1) The “in-your-face” Christians
These are the hard sell, confrontational evangelists. They are the ones who stop you in the street, “Do you know you are going to hell without Christ.” The Bible-basher always trying to ram their beliefs down someone’s throat.
2) The “holier-than-thou” Christians
These are the smug and the self-righteous types. They have exchanged their priestly, Pharisaic garments for more contemporary clothing, but their hearts are just as judgmental. They make it plain that you probably couldn’t live up to their level of spirituality, so you might as well not try. They are the ones who expect people to live and behave like them. You become like us and then God will accept you – that is the message that is conveyed even if they preach salvation by grace in words, their attitude say otherwise. You know the type don’t you?
3) The cosmetic Christians
These are the Christians which seekers realise only have a veneer of Christianity. Their faith, only skin deep, doesn’t change their character and values. The seeker sees these people, and says, “There is no real difference between me and them, except that I might have more fun.”
One writer, “If sin dims our testimony so that our “light” is no longer visible, some of those we might have influenced for Christ may drift on in spiritual darkness.”
But that is the warning. That is not how it is meant to be. It is as Michael Green wrote in his commentary, “If Christians are insipid they are useless to Christ. There should be a flavour of Christ-likeness, a sparkle of joy and unselfishness about him or her that is immensely attractive.” That is what we are calling Contagious Christians, those who draw lost people toward Christ.
2. Christians who draw people toward Christ.
Christians who appropriately are a flavouring influence on those around them, and demonstrate the reality of their faith are salt-and-light Christians. They are the Christians who demonstrate what are called “good works”, that influence people toward Christ.
Three examples of salt-and-light Christians .
1) The Costly Christians
Believers who live out their faith even when it demands sacrifice.
To demonstrate the power of costly Christianity in his transition from atheism to Christianity, Lee Strobel, author of The case for Christ and The Case for Faith, shares the story of Ron Bronski.
Ronnie was a member of a street gang in Chicago. A rival gang had beaten up his brother, so Ronnie decided that he was going to get even.
One night, he got a pistol, and waited for, Gary, the guy responsible for his brother’s beating. When Gary came out of the building with a few other gang members, Ronnie came up behind them, yelled his gang name, and pulled the trigger. The gun just clicked. The gang members turned around, and Ronnie pulled the trigger again. This time a shot was fired into the air. The members of the gang began to run off in different directions.
Ronnie ran off in hot pursuit of Gary. He shot again and caught Gary in the back. Ronnie walked up to Gary, turned him over, and putting the gun to his head, pulled the trigger once more. This time the gun locked up. He dropped the gun and ran.
Ronnie knew now he had to get out of town. So he packed up his girlfriend and they left that night for Portland, Oregon.
In Portland, Ronnie got a job, where several Christians worked, and over time he made a commitment to Christ. Ronnie began to transform. He became a model member of his church and community.
But something deep inside continued to gnaw at his soul. He knew he had been restored in his relationship with God, but not yet to society. There was still a warrant out for his arrest for attempted murder although the Chicago Police had discontinued looking for Ron Bronski a long time ago. He could have stayed in Portland without ever being caught, but he knew what he had to do.
He kissed his wife and children and took a train to Chicago, to turn himself in. He knew he was looking at up to 20 years in prison.
Lee Strobel, still an atheist at the time, was assigned to the criminal courts building by the Chicago Tribune. He was used to hearing people who were obviously guilty trying to exploit the system, trying to find any loophole to get out of responsibility for the crime they committed.
Then in walks Ronnie who tells the judge, “I did it. I’m guilty because not only did I shoot him, I was trying to kill him. But now I have become a Christian and I realise what I did was wrong. I’m sorry for what I did.”
Lee Strobel’s assessment “this drew me towards Christ.” To see someone so convinced of their faith that they were willing to be faithful even when it meant up to 20 years in prison made a remarkable impact, and showed him that Ronnie’s faith was for real.
Bill Hybels has written, “Sacrifices impact people for a lifetime. And in a day when narcissistically ’looking out for number one’ has been elevated to an art form, almost any kind of sacrifice will cause a stir.”
2) The Compassionate Christian
When action-oriented compassion is absent, it’s a telltale sign that something’s spiritually amiss. Whether the problem is with the organisation or the individual, uncaring Christianity does not attract inquirers into its fold. But a clear and consistent demonstration of Christ-like love is a powerful magnet that pulls people toward Him. So let talk about being a compassionate Christian.
One of the primary reasons God calls His followers to be extraordinarily caring people is because acts of mercy open up people’s hearts like nothing else can. Put another way, there’s tremendous pulling power in the expression of even a single act of kindness. And God wants that power to draw people toward his Son.
Not just one-off tokens but intentional efforts to serve the real needs of people God has placed around us. It is the cooking of meals for a neighbour’s family who is ill.
It is child minding for those who don’t have someone readily available. It is volunteering to help them work on the car, or the house. The list could go on and on because it is any type of service that demonstrates in a very practical way the love of God.
3) The Consistent Christian
ILLUS.: Definition of an English Gentleman – A man who uses his butter-knife even when he dines alone.
Same principle applied to the Christian — We are talking about those who demonstrate integrity of faith even when you don’t know you are being watched.
Being authentic about the struggles present in our lives. Being honest, what we would call being “real”.
What people need to see in you and me are more than pasted-on smiles and religious slogans? They need to see us grapple with fear and sadness and anger and jealousy and loss. They need to hear us talk openly about our struggles with issues of purity. They need to watch us work out your faith without discounting the everyday realities of life.
ILLUS.: Story of a business owner who had employed scores of Christians in his company. He watched them like a hawk. “You know, I was naturally drawn to God by observing Christian workers who were conscientious and kind and thorough and aggressive on the job,” he said. “But I’ll tell you what really impressed me. One day a guy who I knew to be a fresh convert asked if he could see me after work. I agreed to meet with him, but later in the day I started to worry that this young religious zealot might be coming to try to convert me, too.”
“I was surprised when he came in my office with his head hanging low and said to me, ’Sir, I’ll only take a few minutes, but I’m here to ask your forgiveness. Over the years I’ve worked for you I’ve done what a lot of other employees do, like borrowing a few company products here and there. And I’ve taken some extra supplies; I’ve abused telephone privileges; and I’ve cheated the time clock now and then.
“’But I became a Christian a few months ago and it’s real – not the smoke and mirror stuff. In gratitude for what Christ has done for me and in obedience to Him, I want to make amends to you and the company for the wrongs I’ve done. So could we figure out a way to do that? If you have to fire me for what I’ve done, I’ll understand. I deserve it. Or, if you want to dock my pay, dock it whatever figure you think is appropriate. If you want to give me some extra work to do on my own time, that would be okay, too, I just want to make things right with God and between us.’”
Well they worked things out. And the business owner said that this conversation made a deeper spiritual impact on him than anything else ever had. It was the single most impressive demonstration of true Christianity he had ever witnessed.
What was it that made this new believer so contagious? Was it a clever new gospel presentation? Was it a well-rehearsed testimony? Obviously not. It was merely a genuine and humble admission of wrongdoing along with a willingness to make it right. It was consistent Christianity.
Perhaps there’s something you should confess at work, in your home, or in your neighbourhood. Or there could be an area of your life that you know isn’t right, but you’re still trying to cover it up in the hope that nobody will find out. Maybe now God’s Spirit is prompting you to go to somebody and say, “Because I mean business about my relationship with God and I want to be right before Him and with you, I need to apologise.”
Can I give you an inside scoop? People who are investigating Christianity don’t expect perfection from Christians. They’re too streetwise for that! What they do hope to find is someone with the courage to confess their blunders and make things right. They want to see humility and repentance, and maybe even restitution.
Last week we finished looking at the Beatitudes – the characteristics of people who belong to God and to his Kingdom.
When people see Jesus disciples living like that many will glorify our heavenly Father.
These words of Jesus contain warning as well as instruction. Romans 1:22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools / acted foolishly.
What has this to do with being salt and light.
Same word – losing saltiness / becoming tainted = foolish.
SO – if the salt fools around it looses its impact / effectiveness. Jesus assessment “Such salt is good for nothing” – his testimony is worthless. Wouldn’t you rather Jesus’ assessment of you was “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
What is Jesus urging us to do – in today’s language “Get out there and shine!” How are we to shine? Jesus spells it out – clear and unequivocal – works! That’s shakes some of us evangelicals!!
We are not saved by works BUT we are saved to do good works!
James 2:17-18 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action / works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. (NIV)
“If faith doesn’t wok, it is highly suspect. It can shout, it can preach, it can pound the pulpit but if it doesn’t work, it’s dead!”
How is my LIGHT-LIFE?
a) Kindle the flame – if you light is a flicker instead of a flame tell the Lord, I admit I’m a pretty pathetic light. I’m just smouldering – giving a lot of smoke but little light. Lord, please, set me alight!”
b) Trim the wick – carefully and consistently work at your lifestyle to remove less-than-satisfactory living that hinders your glow.
c) Replenish the oil – draw deeply on the God-given resources of the Holy Spirit and the Word.
d) What’s you motivation? A candle doesn’t shine just to be seen – nor to illuminate other candles. [There are some Christians whose over-riding ambition is simply to be seen – they have a problem. There is too much darkness out there to be concerned with self-glorification. Our works are to glorify our Father in Heaven.
Jesus doesn’t want us to be useless and dull and irrelevant.
He wants us to be useful, attractive, relevant, full-of-life people who draw others – not to us – but to Him!
Being a salt-and-light Christian.
“Christians are to be good news before they share the good news” Joe Aldrich
1. Christians who repel others from Christ
- The ‘in-your-face’ Christian
- The ‘holier-than-thou’ Christian
- The cosmetic Christian
2. Christians who draw people towards Christ
- The costly Christian
- The compassionate Christian
- The consistent Christian
Warning and Instruction
Don’t be good-for-nothing – be salty!
Don’t be dull – Shine!