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You are the Salt of the Earth

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
February 21, 2024 3:00 am

You are the Salt of the Earth

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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This means that we have become part of a miracle. We were darkness and we are now light. Paul says to the Thessalonians, you're not in the darkness, but you're in the light. Walk as children of the day. Now beloved, we are the light and we are the salt.

That's just the way it is. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur. I'm Phil Johnson, your host. The act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion. That's one way that Webster's Dictionary defines influence. You probably know someone like that, someone whose very presence seems to change the way people act and think.

What about you? Do you have influence on others? Specifically, does your life point people toward Christ?

What sort of influence are you? Consider that today as John MacArthur begins a series from the Sermon on the Mount, titled How to Live in a Dying World. But before we begin this study, John, talk about the weight of responsibility in Matthew 5, 13 through 16, where Jesus says, you are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. If being the world's salt and light was a solitary task, Christians would have little influence. But thankfully, those pronouns, you, are plural, and so is the responsibility it describes.

Yeah, it's a good way to talk about it, as a weight of responsibility, because it is just that. We're going to begin a series titled How to Live in a Dying World. How to Live in a Dying World. How can we have lasting influence on this world? Does it have to be fame?

Does it have to be money? Does it have to be position, power? Does it have to be greater intelligence? How is it that we can be salt and light in the world?

We're going to learn the answer to those questions, how to live in a dying world. We have a world full of influential people. I guess they're deemed influential. Most of them are famous for being famous, and very little else. A world of media personalities and politicians and educators and philosophers and actors and actresses and singers and musicians and all of that.

They may be the people that everybody knows, the names that everybody knows, but they are not influencing the course of redemptive history. The people who make the real difference in the world, the lasting difference, the eternal difference, are often those people who live in quiet places, obscure, but who are fixed on heavenly virtues rather than earthly fame. And in this series, we're going to find out what Jesus meant when he said to his disciples, be in the world, but not of it. And you know, the Apostle Paul actually went so far as to say that we are a saver in the world of life to life and a saver of death to death. Our lives matter more than any other lives in the world. Again, the study, how to live in a dying world, practical, timely truth that you can use in your life, especially as you interact with non-believers around you.

That's right, friend. To help you be an influence for Christ in a culture that is dark and decaying, stay here as John MacArthur shows you how to live in a dying world. Here's John with the lesson. President Woodrow Wilson told this story. He said, I was in a very common place. I was sitting in a barber chair when I became aware that a personality had entered the room. A man had come quietly in upon the same errand as myself to have his hair cut and sat in the chair next to me. Every word the man uttered, though it was not in the least didactic, showed a personal interest in the man who was serving him. And before I got through with what was being done for me, I was aware that I had attended an evangelistic service because Mr. D.L. Moody was in that chair.

I purposely lingered in the room after he had left and noted the singular effect that his visit had brought upon the barbershop. They talked in undertones. They didn't know his name, but they knew that something had elevated their thoughts. And I felt that I left that place as I should have left the place of worship.

My admiration and esteem for Mr. Moody became very deep indeed. Influence, influence. What message do you leave the world?

When you pass by, what are you saying? Years ago, Elihu Burret wrote this. No human being can come into this world without increasing or diminishing the sum total of human happiness, not only of the present but of every subsequent age of humanity.

No one can detach himself from this connection. There is no sequestered spot in the universe, no dark niche along the disk of non-existence to which he can retreat from his relations to others where he can withdraw the influence of his existence. Upon the moral destiny of the world. Everywhere his presence or absence will be felt. Everywhere he will have companions who will be better or worse because of him. It is an old saying, says Burret, in one of the fearful and fathomless statements of import that we are forming characters for eternity.

Forming characters? Whose? Our own or others?

Both. And in that momentous fact lies the peril and the responsibility of our existence. Who is sufficient for the thought? Thousands of my fellow beings will yearly enter eternity with characters differing from those they would have carried thither had I never lived.

The sunlight of that world will reveal my finger marks in their primary formations and in their successive strata of thought and life," end quote. This is precisely what Jesus is teaching in Matthew 5, 13 to 60. He's talking about influence. He's talking about how you and I affect the world. And in the Sermon on the Mount at this point, He is saying, you who are characterized by beatitude quality life, you who are the sons and daughters of the kingdom, are the salt and the light of the world to influence the world for good and for God. Our Lord is calling on us to influence the world we live in.

Just as He was, those disciples gathered with Him as He preached to the multitude. And it isn't easy, you know. In fact, in many ways it's an almost impossible task.

Think about it this way. In a prayer to the Father in John 17, our Lord once said, regarding those who believe and enter the kingdom, He said this, I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world. I'm not praying that you take them out of the world. In the very next sentence He said, they are not of the world. One verse later He said, so I have sent them into the world. Later on the Holy Spirit said to John, love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.

Now the sum of those verses goes like this. I want you in the world but not of the world. I've sent you to the world but don't love the world.

Now I don't know about you, but that feels like a thin line for me. How can believers be in the world but not of the world, sent to the world and not permitted to love it? What a paradox. How can we influence it then? How are we to influence this world? How can we be in it and not of it?

How can we be sent to it and not love it? The solution comes in verses 13 to 60. We have to be salt and light.

Salt in order to be effective has to be mingled with the substance it's affecting and yet salt is distinct from that substance. Light in order to dispel darkness must shine upon the darkness and yet is distinct from the darkness. And this is a mandate, beloved, to influence the world. Jesus is saying we are to be different, poor in spirit and mournful and meek and thirsting for righteousness and merciful and pure in heart and peacemaking. And even though we are all those things, we don't crawl off into a monastery somewhere.

We get out in the world and we live it right there where they can see it. So the final beatitude in verses 10 to 12 is transitional. We see in verses 10 to 12 the attitude of the world toward the believer and in 13 to 16 the attitude of the believer to the world. The world's going to hate us but we still have to be salt and light to influence them. The important truth is revealed that the people whom the world hates are the very ones they desperately need to be influenced by.

Do you hear that? Even the quasi-religious, quasi-pious scribes and Pharisees who hated the representatives of Jesus Christ were totally dependent on their influence to know the truth of God. The world may hate us and the world may persecute us, but the world is absolutely dependent upon us being the influence and the verbal manifestation of the gospel of God. We alone are the salt of the earth.

There is no other. That's it, just us. And if we lose our saltiness, it's lost. We are the light.

That's it, just us, nobody else. If our light is under a bushel, there is no other alternative. Now as we look at these four verses, I want to give you four great truths, four great truths so that you'll understand what it means to be salt and light. First, the presupposition. Secondly, the plan. Thirdly, the problem.

And fourth, the purpose. First of all, the presupposition. The presupposition here is simple. This text presupposes two things. The world is decayed, that's why it needs salt, and it's dark, that's why it needs light. The presupposition then is the decay and darkness of the world. The decay and darkness of the world.

It doesn't have to say that, it presupposes it. The fact that the world needs light presupposes it's dark. The fact that it needs salt presupposes that it's decadent, or that it's decayed and decaying. Salt is needed where there is decay.

Salt is used where there was corruption. And light is brought where there is darkness. G. Campbell Morgan says, Jesus, looking out over the multitudes of His day, saw the corruption and the disintegration of life at every point. He saw its spoilation. And because of His love of the multitudes, He knew the thing they needed most was salt in order that the corruption would be arrested. He saw them wrapped in gloom, sitting in darkness, groping amidst fogs and mists, and He knew that they needed above everything else light.

Morgan is right. The presupposition here is that we live in a decayed and decaying, dark and darkening world. That is the biblical worldview.

Jesus reveals His perspective on the world. It's decayed and dark. And it isn't getting better. Evil men, it says in Timothy's epistle, evil men shall become worse and worse. Now you know, it is absolutely a ridiculous, stupid pipe dream to think the world is getting better. It can't get better because it isn't good to start with.

It's bad and it's getting worse. And the world of Jesus' time had the same decay and the same darkness. All we've done is increased the volume.

We've just turned it up louder and invented new ways to do it. There's just more of us than there were then and the time in between has allowed us to have more inventions of evil as Romans 1 talks about. Now listen, beloved, that is the biblical view of the world. That's the way Jesus saw it.

That's the way it's always been. It didn't take very long from Genesis 1 when God created man to Genesis 6 until God looks at man and said, all I see is only evil continually, right? And God said, there's only one thing to do, save eight righteous souls and drown the whole rest of humanity. And He did.

He locked up eight of them with a bunch of animals in a big boat and the rest of them drowned. God made a perfect world. Sin entered in. Evil polluting influence took over and God had to destroy the entire world by the sixth chapter of Genesis.

He had a new start, gave Him a new start. By the nineteenth chapter of Genesis, one part of the world at least, one area of the world called Sodom and Gomorrah had become so rotten and so vile and so corrupted that God had to come in and destroy everybody in that place by fire and brimstone. And the time is coming in the future, according to 2 Peter chapter 3, when God again is going to rain fire out of heaven and destroy the world in a holocaust of fire like men have never dreamed. You see, it's the same old tale told again.

It's the same old story. Man just gets worse and worse and worse. He is infected with the germ of sin. There is no antidote apart from God and He will not have God because He loves His darkness rather than light.

He loves His decadence and does not want purity. And the germ thus affects the whole body of humanity, brings universally the disease of sin and the world continues to descend on the scale of immorality to the place where God eventually will simply bring final judgment. The world is dark. I don't mean we're dark in sense of information. We've got information. We've got all kinds of information.

They're storing it on molecules now. They can get the Library of Congress on an object the size of a sugar cube. We've got so much information they have to work on storage problems. We have information. Our knowledge, however, is mechanical. Our knowledge is scientific.

Our knowledge is within animate objects and there are some...there is some knowledge of the scientific function of animate objects. But when it comes to the inward knowledge of why people are what they are and it comes to the truth of life and death and eternity and God, man has no answers and so he cannot retard the corruption and the darkness in which he lives. And by the way, it's really a frustrating thing to be a philosopher. The greatest thinkers in our world are completely baffled at solutions to the real hunger of the human heart. They're talking now about the fact that what we need is E...I think they call it E-S-B, electronic stimulation of the brain where they stick a bunch of stuff in your brain and zap out all your evil parts so all you are is a zombie. You know what cloning is? You know where we're going with test tube babies? We're going to the place where they will determine who gets to be born and who doesn't get to be born. They're going to try to get all this out of society by controlling genetic processes.

It will never work. All we'll say, well, all we're going to have is a bunch of zombie clones. Well, if that's true, there will be bad ones. You're not righteous by accident. Man is depraved from his birth. David said, In sin did my mother conceive me.

From the very point of conception, I was a sinner. So the decay and the darkness of the world is the presupposition and nothing can be more evident than that against the backdrop of the knowledge we have today. I mean, we've had so many peace talks and we've got so many answers and we've got technology and science and so forth and so forth and we still have problems that we will never solve, killings and slaughters and wars and it's never ended. Crime rates rise, more murders than ever, more rapes than ever, more crimes of all kind than ever. Despair and pessimism reign in our day because man hasn't been able to retard his descent. In fact, he has the sickening feeling that he's just speeding it up with his technology.

The heart of man is deceitful above all things and...what?...desperately wicked. This is Jesus' view. This is the view of any thinking person. Any evolutionist would have to be blind to reality to think human society is on the ascent.

It isn't true. And so our Lord is saying, since we have a decaying, corrupted society shrouded in darkness, this society needs salt to retard the corruption and light to brighten the darkness. And so the presupposition, the darkness and decay of the world moves to the second point, the plan.

God has a plan. The plan is the dominion of the disciples, the dominion of the disciples. He sets us up in the world as a holy priesthood, as a kingdom of priests, as kings and priests. And He says, I'm giving you dominion.

I'm giving you a restored dominion that man lost in the fall. You are My kings and you are My vice-regents and you are My princes in the world and you are My priests and prophets in the world and your job is to retard the corruption and bring light to the darkness. You know what's so sad about it, people, is that instead of the church influencing the world this way, the church is influenced by the world. It's ludicrous what the church permits under the influence of the world. And so the plan.

What is the plan? Watch, verse 13, ye are the salt of the earth. Verse 14, ye are the light of the world. Verse 16, let your light so shine before men. Now listen, guess who has the responsibility?

You. To whom did the ye refer? I believe it referred to the disciples, to the believers.

They are the agents of divine transformation. They are the ones who are salt and light. And by the way, in verse 13, ye are the salt. Verse 14, ye are the light.

The pronouns are emphatic. You only are the light. You only are the salt. Nobody else.

You're it. And if you do not retard the corruption and if you do not bring the light to bear on the world, there will be no retardation and there will be no light. We must live in the world distinct from the world if we are to fulfill the plan that Jesus set about to fulfill in the world. We cannot be corrupted by it. We cannot swallow its morality or immorality or amorality or non-morality. We cannot swallow its materialism. We cannot swallow its self-centeredness. We cannot swallow its easy solutions.

We cannot listen to its philosophies. When we are called to come out and be separate and touch not the unclean thing, that is a very exacting call. And the very ones who are persecuted by the world, the very ones hated by the world are not to retreat to some place in the woods, are not to run in persecution. We are to stand there and face the world emphatically holding to the responsibility to be salt and light if ever there is to be a retardation of corruption and a dawning of light in the darkness. Literally translating verse 13 would be this, the only salt of the earth is you. The only salt of the earth is you. That's it.

That's it. All who possess the character of the Kingdom. And by the way, the you is plural. He's talking about the collective body of believers. And no, you don't put one grain of salt on anything. You don't say pass the salt and then pick out one thing and drop it on there.

It only functions in combination with other pieces of salt, other grains of salt. And the church to influence the world must be collective salt, you see. It's not enough to be all alone at it.

We've got to be at it together, collective influence. And by the way, the same is true of the light. The light is the light...he is the illustration of a city.

It's many lights that light a city. It's many grains of salt that affect a substance. So the saved are the salt. The verb here stresses being.

The stress is on being. It's on what we are and what we continue to be. And we are the salt and we continue to be the salt and we are the only salt in the world.

Let me add this, it's not what we should be, it's what we are. Like it or not, you're the salt of the earth. The only question is whether you're salty or whether you've lost your salt flavor. You are the salt.

You either have it savor or you don't. But the idea isn't please be salt, it is you are salt. The only question is whether you're salty. You are light. The only question is whether you're on or not.

That's all. If you are a believer, you're salt. If you're a believer, you're light. You're not going to get to be salt.

You're not going to say, well, you know, I'm a new Christian and I certainly would like to attain salt. No, I'm growing toward being light. No, you are light. You are salt.

The question is whether you've got any taste and whether you've got any shine. The same emphasis is made in verse 14, the same thrust, you alone are the light. Now of course we know that Christ is the true light, that lighteth every man that cometh into the world, John 1. In John 8 Jesus said, I am the light of the world, whoever follows me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life. In John chapter 9 verse 5 He claimed to be the light again. In John chapter 12 verse 35 He claimed to be the light again. Ever and always He claimed to be the light, but what's so wonderful is He passed that light on to us in Philippians chapter 2 and verse 14. He talks about verse 15, that you should be blameless, harmless children of God without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life.

That's the little motto we have on the stationery of Grace Church, holding forth the word of life. God says, Christ is My light but you also are lights. He's the sun and we're the moons, you see. This means that we have become part of a miracle. We were darkness and we are now light. Paul says to the Thessalonians, you're not in the darkness but you're in the light. Walk as children of the day. Now beloved, we are the light and we are the salt.

That's just the way it is. We have been separated from the world totally. In 1 John chapter 5, a most significant text, verse 4, whatever is born of God overcomes the world and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. And who is he that overcomes the world but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? When you believed in Christ, you overcame the world.

You stepped out of the darkness. Colossians 1, you were translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son and the kingdom of His Son is light. And you say, John, what does light mean?

It means the truth and the life of God revealed. We're no longer in the darkness, we're in the light and we are the light of the world, reflecting the light of the sun. We are moons that the world may know the truth of God. So we're salt to retard the corruption and we're light to manifest the truth.

One is negative, one is positive, right? Salt retards corruption, light manifests truth. We not only are to retard the corruption, we are to manifest the truth, both a negative and a positive. By our influence we retard corruption by our verbalization and by our living we manifest the truth. So you have here the influence of a silent testimony and the impact of a verbal and living testimony. Our salt influence may be silent and hidden as salt was rubbed into meat to preserve it, but our light influence has to be open and ablaze in the way we live and in the manifestation of verbalizing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Salt is unlike the medium in which it is placed. Light is unlike darkness.

And God has changed us from being part of the corrupting, stinking, foul meat of the world to be the salt that can preserve it and from being in the gloomy mist of darkness to being light that can expose it. And I don't think there's any middle ground. You're either Peter or Judas, there's nothing in the middle. Worldliness and secularization is totally condemned in this passage. You cannot be a part of the system. You can't. We can't have people who claim to be Christians and never separate from the evil system.

It can't be done. There's something wrong with that kind of stuff, you see, something wrong, seriously wrong when you claim to be a believer and yet you never come out of the world. You're not salt. You haven't changed from the medium you're in. You're still corrupting. You're not light.

You haven't come out of the darkness. So our Lord this...great blessedness through verse 12 with great responsibility verses 13 to 16. If God is so gracious in verses 3 to 12 to put you in the kingdom, if God is so gracious to give you everything He gives you, the kingdom of heaven, verse 3, comfort, verse 4, inherit the earth, verse 5, fill you up with righteousness, verse 6, give you mercy, verse 7, allow you to see God, verse 8, call you a son, verse 9, and give you a great reward, verse 12. If you have all that blessing, believe Me, you'll have responsibility too. And the responsibility is to live as salt and light.

And it's challenging and exciting, not easy, but vastly rewarding. We must live above the world. You sprinkle salt, don't you, from above on. You shed light from above on. That's what Christ is saying.

That's the divine plan, dominion. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur, pastor, author, and chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. His current study is titled, How to Live in a Dying World.

Well, what we're starting to see about Christians being the salt of the earth and the light of the world, those are high standards that we all need to keep growing in. For practical help in doing just that, download the study and review this material at your own pace. Get in touch with us today. You can download both lessons from How to Live in a Dying World free of charge at Also, if CDs work better for you, this series is reasonably priced on a two-CD album.

You can order the CDs when you call us at 800-55-GRACE, or you can also order from our website, And while you're there at, be sure to take advantage of the thousands of free resources available. You can listen to any broadcasts you may have missed. You can watch Grace to You television. You can download more than 3600 of John's sermons, all free of charge in MP3N transcript format.

That's our web address, again, And to keep up to date on the free Bible study resources we have available, follow us on X, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Now for John MacArthur and the entire staff here at Grace to You, I'm Phil Johnson. Join us tomorrow as John continues his look at How to Live in a Dying World, showing you how to make your conduct a testimony for Christ in a world that desperately needs Him. Be here tomorrow for another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-21 05:23:08 / 2024-02-21 05:34:03 / 11

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