Who we are in the world | Matthew 5.10-16
February 16, 2014 Series: The King Has Come | Matthew
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 5:10–5:16
Intro | Relationship to the World
Jesus longest recorded (most concentrated teaching) sermon begins with eight different statements of blessing. This list is not intended as a prescription of what someone must do to be a Christian; rather, it is a description of what God’s grace produces in a Christian. Jesus changes us. His Spirit births in us new desires with new attitudes, actions, and even perceptions. We see ourselves, our Lord, and our world differently.
In these first seven beatitudes, Jesus teaches us about Kingdom-character which leads to Kingdom-behavior. Jesus is always concerned with character before conduct. Unfortunately, evangelical Christianity has been backwards with this regard for some time. The essence of a Kingdom-citizen, like Jesus describes, is simply obedience to Jesus command to repent. A Christian is characterized by repentance. The first of Martin Luther’s 95 THESES is: When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “Repent,” he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance. Repentance is the turning away from the unrighteousness ways of the world and toward the righteousness of Christ found in the gospel. When Jesus saves someone, repentance is to be the Christian’s continual posture. In terms of the beatitudes:
1. People stop being prideful and begin to be humble.
2. People stop laughing at sin and begin to mourn over it
3. People stop trusting their own strength and begin to trust God’s
4. People stop hungering for happiness and begin to hunger for Jesus
5. People stop demanding their rights and begin to show mercy
6. People stop dividing their devotion and begin to see God as supreme
7. People stop trying to keep the peace and begin to make peace
The Christian lives like this because the Christian has a right view of himself. This comes from belief in the gospel. The cross of Christ protects us from a view of the self that is too high (pride) by reminding us that our sin was so bad, it required the death of the Son of God. At the same time, the cross of Christ protects us from a view of the self that is too low (despair) by reminding us that we are so loved Christ died for us. Repentance does not come by hard work, rather, through a constant reminder of the work of Christ. This produces Kingdom character which leads to the conduct that Jesus describes.
A right view of WHO WE ARE in Christ, leads to a right view of WHO WE ARE in the world. In this passage, Jesus says we are three things: We are different. We are salt. We are light. All three say something about us and the world.
YOU are different | the world is not our home
When Jesus saves us, He does not take us from the world—He wants us here. In John 17 he prayed: I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is the truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. Jesus makes the point that a Christian is fundamentally different than anyone who is NOT a Christian in the world. Beginning in verse 10, Jesus says there are consequences for living out who you are in Christ in the world. Because the nature of the world has not changed since Genesis 3, we can expect the world will treat us like it did Jesus. The world hates the real Jesus. There are many Jesus’ they like—but not the real one. The world killed the real Jesus. The world killed the apostles. The world continues to kill faithful servants of the King. But being persecuted is not that thing that happened a long time ago or a long way away. The next verses make a significant shift, going from third person to second person. Jesus uses the personal pronoun “YOU” seven times in the next seven verses. If you are a real Christian, this is WHO YOU ARE in the world. And who you are is different.
Persecuted for being different
When Citizens of the King live like Citizens of the King, they will be persecuted. Persecution does not always mean death. It can also be a deep hatred, a loud mockery, or a quiet exclusion. It seems ironic that living as a peacemaker would generate some much violence. Jesus himself said “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. (Matthew 10.34). The truth of peace with God, through Christ alone, creates brings division among men. Anyone who communicates the truth of God by how they live will experience the rejection that God’s prophets experienced. In truth, most Christians do everything they can to avoid this kind of rejection/persecution. Usually, that means denying the Lordship of Christ by how you live. They will say, “I believe in living as a Christian but I’m not a fanatic or anything.” They do and say this because they don’t want to be different—they want to be liked by the world. Jesus warned us in Luke 6.26: “Woe to you when ALL people speak well of you, for so their father’s did to the false prophets.” When YOU live WHO YOU ARE in Christ, then YOU will not be liked.
This persecution not only says something about us, it says something about the world. When we are persecuted by the world it shows us that it is not our home—that we really do not belong in the world. . The Christian life is difficult in the world because the Christian life is unlike the world. How is the Christian different?
• He has a different IDENTITY. He is saved by Christ. He is governed by Christ’s love, Christ’s forgiveness, Christ’s approval, Christ’s desires, and Christ’s attitudes which dwell in Him by faith.
• He has a different LOYALTY. He is led by Chris’s Spirit to obey Christ’s commands. For the Christian, obeying and honoring Christ is the great controlling desire in His life.
• He has a different TRAJECTORY. He is governed by thoughts of heaven and the world to come. The Christian values all things in relationship to eternity.
Persecuted for the righteousness
Jesus makes a point to say that it important you are being persecuted for the right reasons. He does not say, blessed are those who are persecuted because they tried to do as many things different as possible. He does not say, blessed are those who are persecuted for fighting a cause. He does not say, blessed are those who are persecuted because they do stupid things that destroy their witness. He does not say, blessed are those who are persecuted for their self-righteousness—but for the righteousness of Christ. Being righteous, practicing righteousness really means BEING LIKE THE LORD JESUS. Therefore, they are blessed who are persecuted for being like Jesus. Rejoice, therefore, when you are hated for speaking like Jesus, living like Jesus, and loving like Jesus.
After explaining how the world is going to react to a genuine Christian, Jesus now explains how the Christian is supposed to respond that hatred.
YOU are the SALT of the earth | the world is rotting
First, Jesus says YOU ARE salt of the earth. He never says, you OUGHT to be the Salt of the earth, he says this is WHO YOU ARE. Christians who ARE Christians ARE the salt of the earth. By using something like Salt, Jesus declares the fundamental characteristic of our relationship to the world is that we are DIFFERENT. Two properties of Salt we need to consider say something about us and the world:
Salt is Preserving
First, Salt is a preserving mineral. Jesus does not use Cinnamon, nutmeg, or some awesome seasoning. Salt was the most common of minerals—because every Christian is salt. Salt was used as a preservative to protect from corruption. The world is like one big rib eye steak, and we are the salt. Jesus implies that the world itself is rotting and becoming more and more rank. Christians influence the world around them. Sometimes this is with our words in an effort to preserve God’s laws for our state, but most times it is simply through living out the beatitudes. When we live out WHO WE ARE, Christians have a cleansing influence on the world around them. Remove Christians from the world and it would instantly become uglier than it is now. The presence of God’s people slows the decay and fights the pollution of sin.
Salt is flavoring
Preserving isn’t its only function. Without Christianity, the world is also very bland. Many would say that we “bring flavor” by making pronouncements as the church as we work to align the culture with biblical principles. I would argue that this is a more individual experience, whereby our lives (more than our words) bring out the flavors where we live. When you live as a citizen of the Kingdom, you begin to bring joy and healing to the world around you. You bring out the flavors that are already there. Your saltiness has less about effecting change in others, and more about living the change in you. A sprinkling of more Christ-like humility, mercy, compassion, and peace will improve the taste of your marriage, your home, your job, your neighborhood, your city. We must be careful to add just the right amount. NOT ENOUGH SALT means it will remain bland and unaffected. TOO MUCH SALT means it will be offensive. We need to be salty…just not too salty. Jesus asks the question about what happens to Salt that loses it saltiness. Can Salt lose its saltiness? No. REAL SALT is never restored because it never loses its saltiness.
YOU are Light | the world is dark
The last thing that Jesus tells the people is that YOU ARE light. It is noteworthy that Jesus is not talking to wealthy and important people. He is talking to the simple, the broken, and the marginalized. And he tells them that they are special, they are part of his mission, they possess a power to change the world. As with the beatitudes, Jesus is not telling them they OUGHT to be, rather, He tells them what they ARE in Christ.
The world is dark and the entire world knows it. Everyone in the world agrees that it is broken either by word or action. Our identities are broken evidenced by all of self-help gurus, pills, and books written to help us find meaning. Our sexuality is broken evidenced by the overwhelming amount of perversion we celebrate and make available. Our marriages are broken evidenced by all of divorces and cohabitations. Our economy is broken evidenced by greed, unemployment, and poverty. Our justice is broken evidenced by countless lawsuits, perverted laws, and the abandonment of penalties. Even nature itself is broken evidenced by it being too cold, too hot, too wet, too windy, and too polluted. And we all disagree on how it is fixed. Some believe that the fix people you need better education, more legislation, less legislation, stronger leadership, higher-paying jobs, or more recycling. No one knows why the world is broken, but everyone knows THAT it is broken.
Jesus says that Christians are the light. Christians expose the truth. The Christian knows that the world is broken for one reason—men are estranged from their God. As Martin Lloyd Jones says, “The ordinary Christian, though he may have not read any philosophy at all, knows and understands more about life than the greatest expert who is not a Christian.” Christians are the light of the world because they have come to know THE light of the world. In other word, we are the light of the world because your relationship is with THE light of the world. As Christians live out who they are in Christ, their very lives expose the sin in the world because they are exposing Him to Christ. Jesus was hated as much for his godly living as he was for his godly words. Jesus knows that we are the light by how we live. We need not say anything and our very presence will light a dark place. There is a difference. A Christian stands out like a light set on a hill. It stands out from the landscape of the world, as it is in the world. It is not a valley or on a mountain in the clouds. It is on a hill—just high enough to be seen, and low enough to reach. There, it the city CANNOT be hidden…unless you never turn on the lights!
Jesus said in John 3: 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” John 3.19-21. Light not only exposes the sinful darkness, it lights the path out of it. Though there are many who will run from the light, there are many who will come to it. Jesus says let your light shine; let the world see your good works, put your gospel-centered lives on display. When we live humbly, when we exercise meekness, when show mercy, when we honor God—the world will give glory to God. Living out who we are is our best evangelism.
At the same time, let’s not forget that we are not just houses full of light, we are lighthouses—we can control what we aim our light at AND it’s intensity! Don’t believe the clever but unbiblical statement: “Preach the gospel and occasionally use words.” Jesus was also hated because of what he said. He said, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me (John 14.6-7). Jesus said, unless you believe I am the Son of the God, the only one who can save you from the wrath of God, the light of the world, you will die in your sins (John 8.12-25). Jesus said you must die with Him and be born again. Jesus said believe, and you will be saved.
CONCLUSION Know who you are in Christ. Then be WHO you are in Christ WHERE you are for Christ. Our relationship with Jesus is passive—He does everything for us. Our relationship with the world is active. Jesus does not just save us FROM something (wrath of God) by the cross, he saves us TO something by the resurrection. We are called and empowered to live differently, and to welcome the world’s strange looks. We are called to preserve a dying world, and to inject it with some seasoning. We are called to proclaim the light of the world, to expose sin and point people to Jesus. Be WHO you are WHERE you are for Christ.
More in The King Has Come | Matthew
May 11, 2014Jesus the Rock | Matthew 7:24-29 (Mville)
May 11, 2014Jesus is (Scary) Gracious | Matthew 7.15-23 (Snoh)
May 4, 2014Kingdom Admission | Matthew 7:13-23 (Mville)