Be What You Are!

Sermon preached at Our Savior Lutheran Church on February 2, 2011 for the 5th Sunday after Epiphany. Text: Matthew 5:13-20

When you give a gift, you want it to be used. That’s why you gave it! It’s not meant to sit on the shelf or get thrown in the garbage; it’s meant to be used. Imagine that you go to a wedding and give the bride and groom a gift. You’ve given them one of those Blu-ray movie players and a toaster. Pretty decent gifts, and you’d think they’d be easy to put to good use.

But then a year later you visit this couple. And it’s not like they just moved into their place; they’ve been there the whole year. But instead of being hooked up to the TV and showing movies, the Blu-ray player is propping a door open. And the toaster, instead of, well, toasting, it is sitting on a shelf like it was a piece of art.

Would you be honored? I doubt it! You might want to know why your gifts weren’t being used very well. But then the couple might try to explain it to you. “No; it’s great! We needed to make sure this door stayed open, and the Blu-ray player worked perfectly! The toaster, well, it was just too pretty to actually use, so we put it on a shelf where we could really admire it. Thanks so much for your gifts!”

The story might be a bit far-fetched, but the point is clear. Gifts should be used for what they are. A Blu-ray player should be a Blu-ray player and show movies. A toaster should be a toaster and toast bread.

Think you’d never act like that newlywed couple? Think again. God has given us all gifts. In fact, he’s made us his gifts. So we need to be what he has made us. We need to live out what he has made us as Christians, as people filled with faith in him. Don’t waste his gifts. Don’t think you’re not important or that you don’t have a purpose in God’s kingdom. No; Christ has made you his gift to the church! Now be what you are! 

We’re continuing our look at Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This is a sermon that continually surprises you. The words are so familiar, but the meaning behind them is powerful and very real for us today. Today Jesus again surprises us by telling us what we are — or, rather, what he has made us.

Listen. You are the salt of the earth. (Matt. 5:13) Jesus spoke it nearly 2,000 years ago, but he might as well be saying it to you today. You are the salt of the earth. Before we get to what it actually means to be the salt of the earth, think about this: Jesus says you are the salt of the earth. Not “you should be.” Not “maybe someday you will be.” But you are. You already are the salt of the earth. So be what you are!

When we think of salt we think of a seasoning. We think of little salt-shakers like you’ll probably see sitting at your table at the lunch we’re having later today. We think of salty foods, or maybe even high blood pressure. Possibly, we might think of how salt melts ice, like how we put salt outside the doors this morning so none of you would fall as you came into church.

In Jesus’ time, though, it was different. Back then, salt was mainly a preservative. If you had fresh meat, you couldn’t just stick it in the freezer. And you certainly couldn’t just leave it out. It’d go bad very quickly. So you used salt. Salt keeps meat and other things from going bad. It prevents mold and bacteria from ruining meat. And because meat tended to be expensive and hard to come by back then, salt was a very valuable item.

So Jesus was saying a good thing here. You are the salt of the earth. But how exactly are we the salt of the earth? How do we preserve the earth? As you keep reading through this section, it becomes pretty clear. This whole world is in a state of decay. Left on its own, this earth and the sinful people on it will rot away spiritually and eternally in their sins.

But Jesus has made us the salt of the earth. By our actions, we show others how we live in a way that is not in line with the sinful, rotting way of this world. Our actions show that Jesus has preserved us forever. We live lives in line with God’s Word and this is a witness to the sinful world around us.
This can also include when we actually witness with words about Jesus and what he has done for us. Jesus doesn’t appear in the flesh to the people of this world to bring them to faith. He uses people like you and me. Whether you’re a pastor, or — more likely — you’re a neighbor or a friend or family member, God uses you to witness to the Savior’s love and salvation. He can use you to bring the message that will preserve that person’s soul for eternity itself. You are the salt of the earth. Be what you are!

Not everyone stays salty, though. Jesus went on, But if 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 by men. (Matt. 5:13) In the everyday world, salt doesn’t lose its saltiness. But what if it did? What would you do with it? It’d be a hunk of rock. All you can do is pave roads with it.

But Christians can lose their saltiness. This is a warning for us. It’s very possible for us to stop being a witness to the world around us. We can stop preserving the people around us with our words and actions. We can be content to show up in church on Sunday morning, if that, but let that be the end of it. It’s a dangerous way to be. It could be a sign that our faith has already died, and that we have lost our purpose as Christians.
Our purpose involves not just being salt, but also light. Jesus said, You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither 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. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matt. 5:14-16)

You’re not just salt; you’re light. Jesus made you light. Of course, Jesus called himself the Light of the world, too. He said, I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will  never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12) Jesus brought his light to this sin-darkened world, and in his light he has given us life.

And he makes us shine with his light. Picture candles, like the ones on the altar. It takes one flame to light all these candles, but when they’re lit, the flame used to light them doesn’t get any dimmer. It doesn’t lose its flame. In that way, Jesus has given us his light. He has put his light into us.
And we show that light, as Jesus said here in our text, with our “good deeds.” Again, it’s our example to the world around us. The example that shows we are Christians, that shows we trust in Jesus. When we live as God has commanded us, people take notice. We give them reason to praise our heavenly Father for what he does through us.
But there’s another warning here. Jesus says not to hide our light. You don’t light a lamp and put it under a bowl. But do we do that as Christians? Think about your lives. Is it obvious to the people who know you that you are a Christian? Or would they be surprised to see you in church? Do your words and actions give people nothing to praise God for? People like to talk about Christians being hypocrites. They go to church, but their lives don’t match. Is that you? If so, take warning!
Take warning at what Jesus says as his sermon goes one. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven…for I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:19-20)
Strong words from Jesus. Surprising words. Words that cut us down. They knock down any pride that we hold in our heart. Can you live up to what Jesus is saying here? Do you break God’s commandments, and not just any of them, but the least of them? Do you really have what it takes with your deeds to enter the kingdom of heaven? Have you really been the salt and light that Jesus has made you to be?
The answer is no. You haven’t. You’ve fallen short. You’ve missed the mark. You have not lived to be what Jesus made you. And there is no excuse for that. There is no, “It doesn’t really matter as long as you try your best.” No. With God, it’s perfect or nothing. And spiritually, you are nothing. Even on your best day. And so am I.

On our own there is no hope. We can do nothing to change this. But we have a Savior who did everything for us. Listen to what else he said here in our text. Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matt. 5:17) Everything written in God’s Word, Jesus fulfilled. He fulfilled all God’s commandments. He never sinned. He was sinless. For you. He didn’t deserve to die, but he did. On the cross. For you. For me. Our good works don’t save us; Jesus already did. He has rescued us from our sins; he’s given us life out of death, and he has given us the salvation he won instead of the damnation we deserve.

Yes, friends, it’s what Christ our Savior has done for us that we live for him. He has made us the salt of the earth. He has made us the light of the world. And in his strength we can be what we are.
So as we celebrate this anniversary of Our Savior Lutheran church. Remember what Jesus has made you. Remember that you are the salt of the earth. That as members of this church, and members of the Christian church, God has given you a great gift. Use it! Be what you are! Preserve this dying, decaying world as you witness to Jesus’ love.
Remember, you are the light of the world. Jesus made you that way. Be what you are! Let your light shine! Let every word you speak and every action you do point to Jesus. Let everything you are point to the one who has rescued you, who has redeemed you, who has made you his own. He’s given you all that you’ll ever need now and forever. He has made you what you are by faith. Be what you are.


One thought on “Be What You Are!

  1. Pingback: Be What You Are! (via Pastor Walters Has A Blog) « puppetman3

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