I was thinking we might do something a little different with the CLC Blog this winter. I am in the habit of doing a Winter Bible Study with the Racing Blog and thought I might parallel it here. So, as we settle in for the winter let’s take a closer look at a passage of Scripture and spend some time getting closer to God. I thought we might take a look at Jesus’ first public preaching, The Sermon on the Mount, from Matthew’s Gospel chapters 5-7. Join with me over the next few weeks as we look at some excerpts from this passage. Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
When we begin any relationship there is that period of getting to know each other. With the New Year I encouraged us to start 2022 with a renewed commitment to follow Christ. This may be the first time you made this effort or the hundredth time, no matter, Jesus is in the forgiving and restoration business and he wipes the slate clean. The Sermon on the Mount is the first time Jesus taught in His public ministry. It contains some of the most significant lessons we can learn as Christians.
It seems the world we live in has cranked up the pressure. No matter what we are involved in we seem to be under more pressure to have all the answers, move at warp speed and be perfect. Grace seems to be a lost commodity. When we get so focused on what we are doing we forget what is going on around us. When we are under the pressure of performance some things rise to the surface that don’t reflect well on us.
How do we perform under the microscope? Will people see our true character? When they do, will they see the love of Jesus? All good questions that many times we don’t find the answer to until the pressure is increased.
When we put that pressure on ourselves, we sometimes do not represent God well. We lose sight of what we have been called to become in Christ and we revert back to being self-focused and self-serving. We forget to look around and see what others are going through. That is not a good way to live. Sure, we all know the type, out for number one, but is that the person you reach out to when you need some encouragement or support?
Being aware of our environment and surroundings would serve us better. We should be observant, looking around for the opportunities that God has for us. When we turn our focus internally, we do not see or hear the voice of God very well.
Let’s dig into the passage; Jesus encourages us to remember who we are called to be.
Matthew 5:13-16;NLT; “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.
14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
Jesus uses two analogies, salt and light. Let’s take a look at salt first.
We all use salt. We use it for different things such as to season food, preserve food or melting ice. When we use it as a seasoning, we do so to enhance the flavor. Take a look around and see if we are enhancing those around us. Are we making things worse or better?
We use it to preserve things, make them last longer. Are we in the preserving business or the tearing down business? Sometimes we don’t realize how destructive our expectations of others can be. We need to take a step back and see how we can build up, not tear down.
We also use salt to change things. When we put salt on ice it melts and makes it easier to get around. Used in this way salt helps us overcome some of the obstacles we face. Are we helping others overcome obstacles?
Salt, much like us, also can be used in a negative way. Salt is corrosive, when used in the wrong way we can tear things apart. Too much salt in our diet leads to medical conditions that shorten our lives. What we have to be aware of is balance, just enough but not too much.
We are encouraged by Jesus to use the love of Christ that is in our hearts to improve the situation. We are encouraged not to lose our effectiveness. Jesus cautions that if we lose our focus then our “salt” is no longer effective we become useless.
Let me stop here and explain. We have the opportunity each moment we live to affect those around us, either for good or bad. We need to be aware of that and decide how we will use our influence. When we choose to be destructive our ability to claim the love of Christ and help others is gone. Our witness is no longer respected.
There is also a condition that we need to watch for. When we find ourselves under pressure, we need to be aware of how we are demonstrating our faith. We need to remember who is in control. We need to avoid losing our saltiness, our credibility, our witness.
Think of it this way. We can be an egg, a carrot or coffee beans. Let me explain, when we place each one of these in the heat of the moment, boiling water, they react differently. An egg becomes hard-boiled. Its insides change from liquid to solid. Our heart gets hard. Carrots on the other hand get soft and mushy. They start off rigid and strong but end up all mushy, no backbone, no firm foundation to stand on. Now coffee beans on the other hand do not change, they remain the same; they do however change the water. The water becomes aromatic and tasty. The water becomes desirable. The coffee beans do not change but they change the water. Which one are we? When the situation around us gets heated, do we harden our heart, lose our firmness and foundation or do we improve the environment around us? Don’t lose your saltiness.
Jesus then goes on to describe us as “the light of the world”. Have you ever thought of yourself as a light that shines for all to see? Jesus put in each one of us a light that will dispel the darkness. Don’t hide your light, let it shine.
Think about when the electricity goes out and there are no lights; immediately our attitude changes. For a moment we experience a wide range of emotions, none of them good. Our mind is flooded with thoughts, mostly negative. Then we remember the candles. We light a candle; a little flame and we are amazed at how much light it provides. Hope returns with light.
We are the same kind of light. We, as Christians, have the same opportunity to light the darkness others are experiencing. When all hope is gone the light of one who knows Jesus can bring hope to the world.
Have we ever stumbled around in the dark? Even in our own home, we think we know where things are, but we still stub our toe and stumble. When we hide our light, we cause others to stumble around in the darkness. When we keep the love of God to ourselves and do not share it, we leave others to find their own way in the darkness. Let your light shine! Put it on a lamp stand and help others find their way.
The first two illustrations that Jesus taught, salt and light; encourage us to influence the environment around us by giving hope. We all bring hope to a situation, some by coming and others by leaving. Christ encourages us to be the hope for those around us, enhance the flavor of life, light the way in the darkness.