Preached @ Anchor Community Church on March 2nd 2014
“Our life is not an object of deep concern when we have abandoned ourselves to a vision of the Kingdom of God.”
When current skeptics speak about the church, they discuss how ignorant, unloving and judgmental the church is. They point to corruption amongst the clergy, and hypocrisy amongst the people. The problem is the world is most often right. Subsequently they reject the notion of a god as meaningless and not needed to be upright, moral people, since the church is no different than the world. Then they go on to espouse Christian values of love, freedom, tolerance, etc. as their own doctrines, not realizing that what they are asking is for Christians to be more “Christian.” Jesus’ teaching here in the Sermon on the Mount is revolutionary.
There is no doubt that some of the moral ethics he espouses was not new (1 John 2:7-8 makes the point that this is not a “New” command, in that it’s really an old command, but it is now coming to us in a different way; since it is “True in Him and in you because, the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.”), but He added dimensions of practicality and the need for inner transformations that made the abstract codes of other philosophies seem trivial leaving humanity with a ‘bootstrap’ mentality for change.
The fact is, the “Golden Rule” was not a new teaching, and was taught by many, but no one had ‘fulfilled’ it! Jesus came to address and transform the heart, not teach the law! The kingdom of Heaven was breaking through!
Jesus is addressing His disciples specifically (See Matthew 5:1). Disciples are those people transformed by the gospel of the kingdom, and can begin to live out the kingdom ethic, because of what Jesus has done. This teaching is not meant as a way into the kingdom, or a way even, to grow in the kingdom; it’s the way of the Kingdom, when our hearts have been made pure by the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
When we live like a Christian (Who is being transformed), we will glorify our Father in Heaven, and most likely be persecuted (Matthew 5:10-12; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 2:11-25).
Big Picture: The Church is created to be preserve a decaying world, and to glorify our Father by doing “Good Deeds” in the world!
What Does That Mean?
Jesus gives us 2 Metaphors regarding the mission of the church and serve as an intro to the Sermon on the Mount!
From the Head…
Again, these 2 Metaphors are both in the indicative, meaning that they are statement of facts about the church of God. Remember that in Christ, we are made holy and set apart for His mission in the world. The Kingdom of Heaven is real, and comprehensive and is more than just our personal salvation. When we are completely gripped by the gospel, we will see ourselves for whom we are, and realize that Jesus had to “Fulfill” the law for us, so that we could begin to live as we are called to live in the community of the Kingdom of Heaven!
Also, both of these metaphors are what the community of disciple’s looks like, not the individual.
Jesus’ Church Is Like Salt (Matthew 5:13)
Salt in the time of Jesus was used as a preservative, not as seasoning like we use it for today. When the church lives as it is called (See Matthew 5:1-12), then it is a preservative for a world that is decaying (See 2 Corinthians 4:16). It is also known that salt does not break-down or “Lose it’s saltiness.” So what did Jesus mean?
Can Salt Lose its “Saltiness?”
Sodium Chloride is a stable compound so the answer is technically no. Then what did Jesus mean? There are a few potential answers to this. One would be that when salt mixes with gypsum, as it often did in that area since they got their salt from the dead sea, it would then be rendered unusable. Another potential reason for the statement comes from a proverb that rhetorically asks “Can salt lose its flavor,” and the answer is no, therefore, Jesus may be using that idea, assuring His disciples that their nature is now something new, and unchanging. There is other less obvious potentials, but I prefer the first one, which makes sense in our context. Salt can only lose its ability to preserve when it is mixed with something else like gypsum. When the church (The Community), mixes with the world in a way that damages its witness, it becomes useless. This happens when we lose track of God’s holiness, and our propensity to sin. When we stop “Mourning” and grieving over our own sin, and being satisfied in Christ and what He has done for us, we can and will lose our witness to the world. It happens when we are self-centered, and are not centered on God’s mission to the world.
Jesus’ Church Is Like A Light (Matthew 5:14-16)
Jesus gives us two examples of light. One is of a city on a hill that illuminates light in a dark world. That’s the world of no electricity. When I travel to third world countries I often notice when I am flying in at night that it is very dark, and even the limited streetlights barely illuminate the street below them. Darkness is a way of life in impoverished areas. This was true of Jesus’ world. A well-lit city on a hill would have a glow and act as a beacon to weary travelers.
The second example he gives is one of a light in a room, and makes a ridiculous and obvious statement (Reductio Absurdium; On purpose for emphasis) that someone would not waste their light under a basket. The church is to be like that; a light in a dark world. The fact is, light cannot be hidden, and when the church is truly transformed by God’s love, it cannot be stopped.
Isaiah 42:6 and 49:8 demonstrates that Israel was called to be a “Light” to the gentiles, but failed. They became enamored with the world, and trusted other entities other than Yahweh to be their savior and protection.
What kind of light is Jesus Talking about?
He is not necessarily talking about proclamation here (Although that is included in the idea), but he tells us in verse 16; the light is the light of “Good Works” that the world will see.
When we shine our light, we are acting like Jesus who is the “light of the world” (John 1:9; 8:12). Our light is reflective like the “light” of the moon, which has no light, but reflects the sun’s light. Jesus is the true light, we point to Jesus as the true light, and we do so, when we act like Him (Good Works), and we act like Him, because of what He has done for us.
The “Good Works” that we do according to Ephesians 2:10 are the result of God’s work in us (See Ephesians 2:8-9) and are prepared beforehand by God. It is also important to note that these works are works within community, and not as individuals. We (The Church Community) are God’s witness to the world as we work in unity and love one another (See Ephesians 2:10-3:10; 1 John 2:8-10).
What Does it mean to “Glorify” God?
- To Glorify means to “Show Weightiness/Importance”
- “The chief end of man is to glorify God AND enjoy Him” Westminster Confession of Faith
- “The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying Him” Piper
- “God is Most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him” Piper
- Satisfaction allows us to be Selfless
…to the Heart
If Anchor is going to move forward and be relevant in our world, then we all need to take seriously the mandate to be a shining light in a dark world. We can no longer work toward the comfort of our own families, but we must be concerned about the safety and justice for all families and children in our community and beyond. Works of good deeds, help us shed our myopic worlds and self-centered agendas for a broader understanding of God’s kingdom, and His desire for glory, so that many could be blessed. My prayer is that we as Missional communities will be looking for ways to bless our neighbors and our cities. Organizations such as “Yes We Serve” (http://www.yesweserve.com/) are already being served by our people and need our help. Other organizations such as Vision Nationals (http://www.visionnationals.org) the organization I work with in India is a great organization, but what we really need is for us, our people to begin to get into the lives of the people that surround us, so that we can truly love them and serve them, so that they would see Anchor as a church that is working with the city to make it a less dark place.
Questions To Ponder
- Why does Jesus use salt and light as an example?
- In what way is the church salt and light?
- What are the barriers to the church being what we are called to do?
- How does God get the glory for our “Good Deeds?”
- Why is God concerned about His glory?
- What can our MC do as a result?
For Further Reading
A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Craig S. Keener
The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, Michael J. Wilkins
The Gospel According to Matthew, Leon Morris
Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament 1A, ed. Manlio Simonetti