We read in Matthew chapters 5-7, the greatest sermon ever given. It was absolutely the most uplifting pairing of words, but at the same time the most convicting sermon I’ve ever known. Jesus so orderly described the eternal rewards of being a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven against the earthly rewards we tend to seek in this fleshly kingdom. We see that we are a blessed people as citizens, let’s now look at how these blessings cause us to take on a very distinct way of living out our lives as citizens. You can read the Recap Part One Here
Matthew 5:13-16 begins to show us that we are called to be Salt and Light.
What does it mean to be Salt of the earth? If you’re thinking like me – Salt is yummy and I need it on everything, but how in the world am I like Salt? Jesus was using salt here as an illustration in reference to how salt was widely used during this day (and still is today) as a preservative, Salt is also used to prevent decay…ever heard of putting “salt on a wound” ouch. Yes, that’s a thing and there is a reason it is used – it draws out infection by drying up the bacteria which causes it. Salt can also be a flavor additive, but too much or too little salt can really make or break the taste of a dish. All of this in mind – Jesus, on this day, was showing the Jews that as citizens of the Kingdom they were now charged to walk as Salt in the earth – preserving those around them as sin abounded, preventing spiritual decay from infecting those who were not citizens and adding the “Seasoning” of Christ everywhere they walked – just enough for them to “Taste and see that the Lord is Good” (Psalm 34:8)
Jesus does not stop there. We see that we are also called to be the Light of the World. What happens when light is shined in a dark place? Exposure happens. Isn’t this the crux of the Gospel? Jesus, as the Light, came into a dark world and starting shining into those dark places exposing the sin and spiritual decay. He then offered himself to be slain and John 8:12 tells us that He is the ultimate source of Light – 12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”
When we become citizens of His Kingdom we take Him in and His light ultimately shines through us. We are the Light of the World. We are His reflection to the world. Why would we place the ultimate source of light under a basket? We must be a beacon, a flare, allowing God’s light to shine through us so that others will know Him also. Everything we do must point back to Jesus for the glory of God.
How many times have I justified myself (in my own mind) by downplaying my sin and actions and comparing them to the sin and actions of others. That’s a mouthful of truth right there. I have. Guilty. How silly of me. Watch what happens when we stop comparing ourselves against each other and instead look at who we are meant to be a reflection of – the image of our Father.
Jesus spoke very plainly to this mind set in the next portion of his Sermon (Matthew 5:17-48). Here we see Jesus pulling verbiage from the Jewish Law in order to set up his entrance into teaching those listening that day about the “Spirit of the Law”.
Jesus’ words were very clear to those listening that day, who no doubt were familiar with the Law of Moses and the “Letter of the Law” which was enforced and even added to by the religious leaders. The Pharisees, who could not even keep the law themselves, were mostly concerned with the actions of people and although they portrayed a picture of righteousness outwardly, their hearts were full of sin. Jesus taught that while the Letter of the Law is important, the Spirit of the Law is what he is interested in. His first illustration speaks to Murder, one of the most condemning sins you can think of. However, Jesus quickly teaches that although you may not have broken the Letter of the Law by murdering your brother, the Spirit of the Law has been broken already by harboring anger and malice in your heart. You see Jesus understood that all sin starts in the heart – insults turn to anger, anger turns to contempt and contempt can lead someone to actually murder another person. The message Jesus was giving this day was opening their understanding to the fact that as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven – His rule is sovereign and His law is Love. He went on to speak of adultery, lust, divorce, lying, revenge, and loving our enemies.
The truth is – each one of us is guilty of trying to uphold the Letter of the Law. It’s what we do to justify our sin. We look at ourselves and downplay our bitterness, hate, jealousy, anger and pride by knowing that we’ve not actually “acted” on the feelings we have towards others. But God can not be tricked…He sees the heart and to Him the Spirit of the Law has been broken already by our emotions, thoughts and attitudes.
This portion of the message has me convicted and reflecting internally. In my flesh I fail over and over and over again. Thanks be to God who sends His Spirit to lead me, guide me, convict me, teach me and lead me into all truth – ultimately making me into His image.
This is my heart’s desire.