Last week we looked at the opening verses of this, the most famous of Jesus’ sermons, called “The Beatitudes”, where the Lord explains what the believer “IS”, or at least, what they should be, and He followed that teaching with this SECOND section, which tells the believer what they should be, in relation to the WORLD.

And I think it’s important that we go back to this section often, as it seems that lately, and by that I mean in the last 50 years or so, the ROLE of the church in the world seems to be CHANGING, and not necessarily for the better.

Jesus is here telling the believers that they have a FUNCTION to perform that CANNOT be conducted from a position of ISOLATION. It is unfortunate that the church today is seen as being “successful” only when they attract large numbers.

And in order to do that, the doors OF the church have been thrown open, and the WORLD invited inside. And in COMING inside, the world has brought WITH it, its own ‘trappings’, its music, dress, language and goals. And that has been pushing HOLINESS OUT!

So the idea now seems to be, “get as many people as possible, inside the church building”…and then, having gotten them, the focus NEXT is to “KEEP them”. The new GOAL of the churches is to build the MEMBERSHIP rolls as large as possible…the larger the membership, the better the church is seen as being.

And that is so CONTRARY to the stated desires of JESUS for HIS church. He told the early believers, in the last chapter of Matthew, that He expected them to GO, out INTO the world, and make DISCIPLES. Now, that has become ‘bring the WORLD into the CHURCH, and make MEMBERS’!

In 1st Peter 2:9…Peter, who was as close to Jesus as any of the 12, a man who, even though he often ran ahead of the Lord, still understood WHAT the Lord wanted the church to become; In that passage I just referenced, he wrote “But YOU are a CHOSEN generation, a royal PRIESTHOOD, a holy nation, a PECULIAR PEOPLE, that you should show forth the praises of Him who has called out of darkness and into His marvelous light.”

THAT should NEVER have CHANGED! What we looked at last week; that we are to be ‘poor in spirit, merciful and meek, hunger after righteousness’…we are called to BE that, so we could then become “The Salt of the Earth”.

That is to be our PURPOSE, and our FUNCTION, in regards to the world. We are to be ‘in the world’…NOT hid away FROM the world, which is NOW seen as the function of the church. There is very little difference in the way the church now attempts to ISOLATE the believers by WAREHOUSING them inside HUGE SANCTARIES…and the way many in the Middle Ages tried to HIDE from the world through MONASTERIES.

Isolating a Christian is in effect, taking the salt shaker, and LOCKING it in a cabinet, where it can do NO good for anyone. But I would invite you to tune into one of the TV broadcasts of one of those huge churches, and just listen to what the people are being taught. It will be some form of “You are all GOOD people. God LOVES you. Bring your money because we have a lot of expenses.”

You’ll find very little emphasis on telling those people that they need to learn as much as they can about what the Lord wanted them to know, so they could then go to someone ELSE, and share what they have learned.

When Jesus said “You are the salt of the earth”, He divided the world into two parts; the Christians, and everybody else. And then He told us what our ATTITUDE is supposed to be TOWARDS those who are NOT Christians. So we need to understand the FUNCTION of SALT!

At the time He said these things, PURE SALT was a very VALUABLE commodity…so valuable in fact, that part of the Roman soldier’s wages was paid IN salt.

So the value of that salt THERE, was seen in its PRESERVING ability. Soldiers on long, forced marches, were often expected to find and supply their OWN food, and carrying food WITH them for long periods would soon see that food SPOIL, unless PRESERVED with salt.

So carry THAT function over to the world that exists today. Do any of you DOUBT that the world is becoming increasingly FOUL, polluted and offensive? The world at large is FALLEN and SINFUL, like MEAT that has become ROTTEN. The same MICROBES that cause food to spoil, have their EQUAL in the GERMS of EVIL that affect EVERYTHING out there in the world! Without the PRESERVING qualities of salt, they are soon beyond hope.

Look at the very first Book OF this Bible…God created a PERFECT world, but SIN soon found its way INTO that world, and it very quickly became SO polluted, that God was forced to DESTRIY it, with a flood.

And from those FIRST pages, to the LAST, the Bible CONSISTANTLY shows us that the world is FILLED with the putrification sin, and NEEDS the PRESERVING qualities of SALT…and Jesus clearly tells us that WE, who have been Saved by His sacrifice…are to BE that PRESERVING QUALITY…which we CANNOT be, unless we go INTO the world.

So the FIRST thing He is telling us, is that we are NOT LIKE the world, that we are to be IN the world, but not OF, or LIKE, the world, and as such we are to have a PRESERVING INFLUENCE ON the world.

But salt has OTHER functions as well. It not only preserves food, it greatly ENHANCES FLAVOR too. And maybe it has become a function of trying to WAREHOUSE the believers, to STOCKPILE them INSIDE the churches, that the world now sees believers as something to be AVOIDED. Have you ever heard someone say “I sure don’t want to be like those CHRISTIANS, who think they are BETTER than everyone else.”?

And WHO is responsible for giving the churches that kind of reputation? The churches themselves. And they have DONE it by trying to KEEP the believers OUT OF the world. And it was JESUS’ intention here, to SEND the church INTO the world. SALT can’t AFFECT that which it doesn’t come in CONTACT with.

The ENEMY of Christianity has convinced the world that the Christian life is the most BORING life IMAGINABLE. He has convinced the world that all the Christian does is DENY anything that is ENJOYABLE. But just the OPPOSITE is true. We are the SALT of the EARTH…and SALT ENHANCES FLAVOR.

I would suggest that to take CHRISTIANITY OUT of the world, would leave the world TOTALLY without FLAVOR. In a way, that is exactly what is now happening. Since the church has changed from a body dedicated to evangelizing by TEACHING the believers and then sending them out INTO the world, to TODAY’s church whose desire is to KEEP the believers IN the church…what has happened to society?

The killing of unborn children has become an INDUSTRY! The sale of ILLEGAL DRUGS has become the nation’s hottest GROWTH INDUSTRY! And that all by ITSELF speaks VOLUMES. Since the USE of illegal drugs will ultimately KILL the BODY, or DESTROY the LIFE of the one USING them, there must be a CONSTANTLY INCREASING number of NEW users, stepping UP to REPLACE those who have died.

Almost daily we are shown in the paper or on TV the HUGE shipments of illegal drugs that have been discovered and confiscated by the Border Patrol or the Coast Guard or some such agency. But in SPITE of the volume CAPTURED enough STILL gets THROUGH to make the illegal drug trade the MOST profitable undertaking IMAGINABLE!

And WHY? Because the SALT is NOT doing ITS job! I can remember many times having been asked to conduct a wedding, and afterwards invited to the wedding RECEPTION, where it was EXPECTED that I would SHOW UP, have a piece of cake and say a prayer, and then LEAVE, so the PARTY could get started…and it was because those people KNEW that I would not APPROVE of the DRINKING and CARRYING ON that was expected to break out.

In the same manner, when I walked into a room where coarse LANGUAGE was being USED, or coarse JOKES being told, and people would immediately STOP, and often APOLOGIZE for anything I might have overheard. And WHY? Because those people UNDERSTOOD what I represented or stood for. And I’m sad to say that doesn’t HAPPEN today, as frequently as it once did. Still, it shouldn’t be JUST the PREACHER who has that sort of effect on the world. It SHOULD be that ANY BELIEVER would have the SAME effect.

THAT is the effect that SALT is supposed to have. And that is supposed to be the INDIVIDUAL BELIEVERS that HAVE that effect. It is NOT necessarily the function of the CHURCH, although the CHURCH is supposed to TRAIN those individual believers so they CAN HAVE that effect.

Then Jesus said “You are the LIGHT of the world”. That is one of those statements that should make you realize what a WONDERFUL THING it IS, to BE a Christian! John 1:4-5 says of Jesus “in Him was LIFE, and the Life was the LIGHT of men. And the Light shines in darkness and the darkness did not (comprehend) it.”

A better understanding of the word “comprehend” would be “to overcome”. The darkness of evil in the world, which had been IN the world since before the MOUNTAINS rose out of the waters…wasn’t able to EXTINGUISH the LIGHT that the Son of God brought INTO the world.

Even a single small candle, lighted in a dark room, will push BACK the darkness a LITTLE. And no matter HOW DEEP the darkness IS, it can’t overcome that single small light.

Take a trip to the deepest part of the deepest mineshaft in the world, several MILES underground, where NO light can POSSIBLY penetrate, where the darkness is so DEEP it can be FELT…and THERE, light that one small candle. Is that deep darkness able to extinguish that tiny bit of light?

NO, you KNOW it can’t! And HERE, Jesus, who IS “the Light of the world”, has NOW said that YOU, the individual believers, are to BE that which HE is. And that means that EVERY Christian, regardless of the degree of STUDY of SCRIPTURE you may have made…regardless of how DEEPLY INVOLVED in the life of the CHURCH you might be…YOU are STILL, “the Light of the world”.

That means that you are to the WORLD, what the MOON is to the SUN. The SUN casts its light on the Earth, and chases away the shadows, warms the air, and gives life to plants.

The MOON doesn’t HAVE any light of its OWN. The MOON, by itself, is just a dead chunk of ROCK! But the moon has a PURPOSE, given TO it by God Himself. It is the gravitational pull of the MOON, on the WATERS of the seas that cause the TIDES to shift.

WITHOUT that constant shifting TUG of the moon’s gravity, our OCEANS would simply lie FLAT, and grow STAGNANT! But TIDES, caused by the MOON, keep that water SHIFTING, CONSTANTLY, and keep them fresh.

BUT, the moon has ANOTHER function too. It REFLECTS the LIGHT of the SUN, unto the DARKNESS of the earth. Even though the moon has NO light of its own, from its seat high above us, it CATCHES the SUN’S light, and REFLECTS it, SO well, that under the light of a FULL moon, you can stand outside and READ a NEWSPAPER, if you desired.

And THAT is the function of the CHRISTIAN. The EARTH is held in the GRIP of DARKNESS…we’re even told that the PEOPLE OF the world PREFER the darkness, because their DEEDS are EVIL. (that’s John 3:19) But when the BELIEVER shines that REFLECTED LIGHT of JESUS, ON those EVIL deeds, they are EXPOSED, AS evil.

1st John 1:5 says that…“God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all”. And the Light of JESUS, is the Light of God Himself, and the light of the BELIEVER is the Light of Jesus, which IS the Light of God.

So in EFFECT, what Jesus said was “I will take the Light of GOD unto MYSELF, and then give that SAME Light to YOU, who believe in Me, so YOU can SHINE that Light on the WORLD, as you go about your day”.

And as you shine that light on the EVIL that you encounter, that EVIL, which HATES the Light, will flee FROM it.

Jesus used the imagery of a CITY, brightly lighted, set on a HILL, can be SEEN, from FAR away. That always reminds me of driving on the QUEEN’S WAY…that we would always take, when we went to Northern New York to visit Dawn’s relatives.

As we approached the city of TORONTO…at night…(when the girls were small I always preferred to travel at night so they would sleep…(but as we approached that city, from MILES away, you could see a GLOW in the sky, and the closer you got TO Toronto, the BRIGHTER that glow GOT…until we were driving IN the city itself, where there was hardly a SHADOW ANYWHERE. That place was REALLY lit UP! And it was VISIBLE for MILES!

And THAT is what Jesus said YOU are supposed to BE. You are to EMBRACE the fact that you ARE the Light of the world. I know a LOT of people who will tell you they ARE Christians, still LIVE their lives as if they were part of the WORLD. They act is if they were ASHAMED of their Christianity, and don’t want anyone to KNOW!

There was the story of a young boy who got a summer job working in a LUMBER camp, and his mother was worried. She said “Son, you’re a Christian, and those loggers are ROUGH men. When they find out that you ARE, they will probably RIDE you unMERCIFULLY for it.”

But the son said “Don’t worry, Mom, I can handle that”. And off he went. Several months later, when he came home to go back to school, his mother asked, “How did those men treat you, when they found out you’re a Christian”? And the young boy said “Mom, it wasn’t a problem, because they NEVER FOUND OUT”!

That is NOT how we are supposed to present ourselves to the world, as if we were ASHAMED to bear the Lord’s Name, as if we had to HIDE what we are, to protect ourselves FROM the world.

Remember John 3:19…which says “This is the condemnation, that Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than Light, because their deeds were evil”. This is CONDEMNATION…THIS is the PROBLEM with the world…this is the CAUSE of all the TROUBLE.

In spite of all the KNOWLEDGE that man has accumulated, and all the WISDOM he has gathered…he STILL prefers DARKNESS to Light. That is NOT the cause of his INTELLECT, it is his NATURE! THAT is his CONTROLLING factor.

And THAT is where the PROBLEM must be addressed. Sinful mankind MUST gain a NEW NATURE…a new nature that will LOVE the LIGHT, instead of the darkness.

And Jesus addressed that need, when Nicodemus came to Him at night…when Nicodemus, a TEACHER of Israel, a member of the 70-man RULING COUNCIL of Israel…came to Jesus under the COVER of DARKNESS, because he wanted to HIDE what he was doing from OTHERS. Man has ALWAYS sought to HIDE his evil actions under the cover of darkness.

And Jesus KNEW that, and He went RIGHT to the CAUSE of ALL of Nicodemus’ problems, and told him “You MUST be born again”! “You MUST experience a NEW BIRTH, which will GIVE you the NEW NATURE that you NEED!

That is the PROBLEM with the WORLD we live in, the NATION we LOVE, this CITY where we have our homes…man is in DARKNESS, and NEEDS that NEW BIRTH, which will GIVE him that new NATURE, which the Lord WANTS all men to HAVE!

And for THAT, Jesus said that YOU, the individual believers, are to BE SALT and LIGHT…that is why He CALLED YOU and SAVED YOU, so you can BE that, to a lost, dark and dying world.

You are MEANT to PRESERVE and add FLAVOR to life. You are MEANT to be VISIBLE to a dark world, EXPOSING its EVILS…not HIDDEN under a basket.

There are entirely TOO MANY who have adopted a FORM of Christianity…but a FAULTY form. They think they’re SAFE in their huge churches, and with their HIGH-PRICED PREACHERS, who only want to use their NUMBERS to give themselves WORTH.

SALT is USELESS, as long as it’s IN the SHAKER…it has to be spread around, to be effective…and your LIGHT can’t be HIDDEN, if it is to be useful. It must shine brightly. And we are to do it ALL, for the GLORY of GOD!

And YOU can’t do ANY of that, until YOU GAIN that NEW NATURE, which LOVES the LIGHT, and HATES the DARK…as Jesus said “You MUST be BORN AGAIN”…and now I have to ask YOU…ARE you? Have you GIVEN your life TO Jesus and asked Him to save you? Or, WILL YOU NOW?

But for you who ARE Saved, and you KNOW it…are you giving your SALT to the world? Is your salt HELPING anyone…preserving anyone…adding FLAVOR to anyone?

Jesus also spoke of salt which had LOST its “saltiness” and become USELESS…good for NOTHING but to be thrown OUT, and trampled underfoot.

Especially these days, there are a LOT of different KINDS of ‘salt’…all sorts of ‘SEA salts’…and ‘iodized salts’…and ‘ROCK salts’ for melting ICE…and the only salt that is USELESS, is that which is NOT taken OUT of the container, so it can BE useful!

So your invitation this morning, as always, is to come TO Jesus for salvation, and be saved from a dying world.

And it is for you that ARE Saved. Are YOU willing to LET your LIGHT SHINE? Let YOUR SALT add SAVOR?

Are you willing to be USED by the Master?

Today’s invitation is hymn number 428 “I Need Thee Every Hour”.

Please…NEED Him, and BE USED BY Him!