GROWTH AND SUCCESS IN LIFE – Lessons Learned at the Feet of Jesus – Sermon on Mount (Part 10)
Jesus pronounced in this His first public discourse and teaching how to be happy and successful in life. This is happy in the deepest sense, not just satisfied from a good meal or a winning business or life event, but a deep settled, blessed, what one author called superlatively blessed life. This is fullness consistent with our design as God’s people and in a manner pleasing to Him.
So far in this first of Jesus’ sermons after selecting the disciples, he sounds like He is putting together less than a winning team. He has lifted up the virtues of poverty, grief, meekness, mercy-giving, purity in heart, of being a peacemaker, bracing for the cost of this commitment – persecution for righteousness, and now, by transition, the influence of kingdom pilgrims on the world. The first nine beatitudes speak to the work and attitude of the world toward us, and now, in transition, the opposite – the influence of us on the world.
Matthew 5:13-16 13“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
1. Salt of the World.. The contribution of salt to our food and life comes with application – it must be spread over, worked into the food we are preparing. In the Middle East one of the major contributions of salt was not for flavor but for preservation. The life of the food was extended with salt. It was cured, saved and preserved. It slowed or prevented deterioration. Our influence, then, is to stand against moral and spiritual decay or defect. Here also is a warning. Without salt, without the spiritual influence – and Jesus had to be speaking of the phony religious leaders around him – it [they] are worthless. In a later scathing indictment of these charlatans, Matthew 12:33-34 33“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
2. Light of the World. If Salt has a negative function, light has a positive function. Light in the Bible speaks of the revealing of the true knowledge of God. This becomes not just a characteristic of the pilgrim, Ephesians 5:8 8For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the LORD. Live as children of light, and a beacon or guide to those around us, toward that which is life indeed.
I was recently introduced to a wealthy man who was, despite his advanced age and poor health, feverishly building out his home, his armaments, and his safety provisions for hard times. He was stacking his wealth in a way to protect him from evil and from others. Sad to say, but that won’t work. Like the rich fool in Luke 12 who dreamed of tearing down his barns and building bigger ones, he was ignoring the realities of his finiteness. Luke 12:20 20“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ I believe we need to stand up and give this message to those who are desperate in life without it.
We are to be the opposite. We are to stand out as spiritual and moral influences to those around us – representing the option of preserving life in its finest way, of shining on God and on Truth that counts for eternity. The blessings from God are to have an outworking towards those around us. Not stockpiled for our own benefit only. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house’.
Ephesians 5:13-16 13But everything exposed by the light becomes visible-and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity.
From here Jesus explains his fulfillment of everything in the Old Testament. After all, in the truest since, Christianity is Jewish in its outset. Explaining that and the tie of the Old Testament and the New Testament is coming next week. Stay tuned.
— John Moore