Acting out of Anger (Matthew 5:21-22)

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In every country in the world, committing a murder is a crime. That doesn’t mean that   no one does it, or that it is always successfully prosecuted. But it is still a crime. So everyone can relate to Jesus as He begins, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’” That is true everywhere in our modern world. Even in ancient Israel, that was true. The Jew more than anyone knew that God the Father HAD said, “You shall not murder.” In fact, God had written it in stone by His own finger. It was one of the ten commandments – the only things actually committed to writing by God’s physical hand, so it was unavoidably true. And it was in fact true, that those who murdered were subject to judgment. The Law specifically stated, “Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death.” (Ex 21:12). “But” (Jesus says), “I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” 

Now if you were listening to Him, you would immediately think – that’s not exactly what the Law had said. It said that if you murder you will be subject to judgment. Not if you were merely angry. Having an emotion is never a crime. One can almost hear the thoughts running through the crowd. “I have not committed a murder, but I have been angry. So that verse cannot possibly apply to me, right?” In fact, most of us reading this passage today probably think the same. Jesus must be mis-speaking, or He is digging a theological hole for himself. If so, He goes on to make it much deeper, “Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin.” And again, that was true – you could be charged with slandering a fellow Jew. “But” Jesus continues, “anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”  

Here in Canada, no one goes to jail for being angry. Emotions are never right or wrong – they are amoral (without prejudice). It is what we do when we are angry that brings us into conflict with the law. But we can all recognize that one gets angry long before one commits murder, and we can all recognize that we only slander another when we are angry with them. Our anger is a mere emotion, but Jesus says when we act out of our anger – even in a callous statement like, “You fool!” we are very thin ice indeed. 

Anger is a God-given emotion. But it is not given to us that we should misuse it. Surely it is a misuse of something God gave us to take up a sword – even a verbal sword – to destroy that which God has made in His own image. 

That principle is clearly imparted to us way back in Genesis 4:6-7; “Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” 

Clearly feeling anger is not the issue. Anger – of itself – is a cue to prayer. It is given to us that we might realize we need to seek God’s face and wrestle with why we feel the way we feel. It is never to be hoarded or misused. Holding onto anger always results in mapping out vengeance, and misusing it by acting in anger is a clear and obvious sin. Amen.

There was never an angry man that thought his anger unjust.

Francis DeSales

APPLICATION: Intentionality 

Are you angry? What are you doing with your anger?

Right-ness (Matthew 5:19-20)

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Jesus has been teaching about the value and importance of the Word of God.  Now He  summarizes just how key it is to the life of the disciple of God in Matthew 5:20, “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.”  

The word Jesus uses for righteousness is the Greek dikaiosynē – meaning adherence to what is required according to a moral standard. The key in question then is our ability to live according to the Word of God

Many in society think that they are pure before God – both in our day and in Christ’s day. But a human standard of righteousness will never cut it, because the righteousness that Jesus speaks about is a right-ness before God, not in our own eyes. It is not even a right-ness that society attributes to us as we speak about the Law of God. If it were that, the Pharisees and teachers of the law would’ve been the high mark for sure. But just because we know about the Word of God or teach the Word of God or believe we are approved by the Word of God doesn’t mean that we are righteous. It that was the mark of righteousness, the Pharisees and teachers of the law would’ve been looking great from Jesus’ point of view. Yet they are so far off that He doesn’t even suggest we start there and try to get better. Instead, He says that off the start we need a righteousness that is higher in quality. 

One commentator writes, “Clearly the Pharisees and teachers of the law had a particular interest in tithing, ritual purity, and sabbath observance. They had committed themselves to a set of shared views as to how these should be best lived out, which included the desire to apply aspects of temple purity law to society at large. The intensity of their interest in these matters is likely to relate to their concern to maintain the purity of Jewish faith against the inroads of Hellenistic culture. They functioned as a political interest group seeking to influence the governing classes and society at large, with sometimes more and sometimes less success, but with a level of public credibility which gave them the potential of being important opinion formers.”

Certain interest groups in our society do the same thing. But Jesus says that the resulting right-ness that the Pharisees and teachers got from their efforts is far too low a standard. That’s because the judge of their rightness was themselves. It wasn’t God. They did what the Word said and then said to themselves, “I am now righteous.” It was really just a form of mankind’s approval, and simply put, it was a right-ness that was not right-enough. To gain heaven we must surpass that, right out of the box. But if those who taught about the law of God were not attaining rightness before God, how can we hope to attain it?

The answer surely includes living a holy life, and that surely includes reading, studying and obeying the Word of God. But it means living that life with and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and not depending on ourselves – or even others to do it for us. We can listen for the Lord’s voice through others, but we have to learn to discern what they are saying as people speaking to us vs what God is saying to us through them. That means putting God far ahead of the person(s) representing God, and certainly not mistaking their approval for God’s approval. The Pharisees and teachers of the Law should’ve known that, because even before Moses, and even before the establishment of the covenant marking out the Hebrew people,  the Word said, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”

Abram believed what God had said to him. That was enough to be considered righteous before God then, and it is still enough today. Seek God with all your heart, wherever you are and whatever you are doing – and lean not on your own understanding of right-ness. For the righteousness that God credits us with is real right-ness. And that is enough. Amen.

Righteousness is the grace that equips us to live a moral life. It not only sets a standard but grants the freedom to live up to this standard.

Donald G. Bloesch


Today, worship God by following His leading. Praise Him for the forgiveness He gives us, and the righteous He bestows on us on account of Jesus Christ.

Becoming Great (Matthew 5:19)

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At a church planting congress one expects that all the presenters are very   successful church planters. Usually, each planted a church that has reached at least a thousand in attendance. In 2013, Bruxy Cavey was a presenter during an one such event in Oakville. Bruxy is a very accomplished preacher and founder of The Meeting House (a church of at least 5000 at the time). He stood up and told all those in attendance that he did not expect to be at the head table with Jesus at the great wedding feast at the conclusion of history. He noted that instead, we should expect that particular table to be full of regular ordinary servants of God who likewise persisted in faithful service all their days, but likely didn’t get to see the same kind of results. God would favour them, for they had been faithful in spite of the lack of results.

Bruxy suggested that God is actually not enamoured with results, because the real results of ministry in His Name are entirely His work. Our work is to be faithful to our calling, not to produce a particular result. He noted that the one who faithfully sowed seed and netted a 30-fold increase gets the same reward as the one who sowed seed and netted a 60-fold increase, and many are those in the “hall of faith” of Hebrews 11 who did not see a glamorous result at all. It was a very teachable moment for everyone there, seeing as most had come with the hope of finding out ‘the secret’ that enabled these few to gain such significant success by human metrics. 

Jesus said, “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, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

In other words, to be great in God’s sight is to simply practice and teach the Word of God in its entirety. That’s the whole thing. God does not judge us based on how many are in the church, or how much we spend on a particular ministry. He does not care to measure us by the number of people we welcome into membership in a given year, or the number baptized in that big public service we held in the park that summer. He does not mark down next to our name how many kids we drew into the Vacation Bible School that one summer. The number of Sundays we preach is never a metric He uses to establish eternal reward.

That reality is completely counter to how we see things. But we do well to consider that Job was a great man of God. Yet he started with many and a huge income and lost everything mid-career. Samuel was a great man of God. Yet he was rejected as leader of Israel in favour of a king. Noah was a great man of God. He started with tens of thousands and finished with eight. The result of our ministry is not up to us. It is up to God. What matters is the faithfulness with which we carry out the ministry God assigns to us. 

That’s not to say that church metrics are not important. They are very important to the life of the local church and the community it is part of. Every elder board does well to measure a pastor’s performance in ministry by some kind of metric of discipleship. These things determine salary, the size of the ministry expense budget and other practical realities that affect our day to day schedules and responsibilities – but they do not determine God’s favor, nor will they guarantee His approval. 

Only obedience and faithfulness do. Amen.

It is one thing to be faithful and quite another to be popular.

Warren Wiersbe

APPLICATION: Intentionality 

Be encouraged. God is not going to judge you on a metric your peers apply. Only be faithful to the calling He gave you.

Mitzvot (Matthew 5:18)

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It is said that the Law of Moses has 613 mitzvot (commands). These range  from the well  known ten commandments to far more arcane sayings long considered irrelevant by modern society. From “You shall not murder” (Ex 20:13) to “If a man dedicates to the Lord part of his family land, its value is to be set according to the amount of seed required for it—fifty shekels of silver to a homer of barley seed.” (Lev 26:17). Just like in these two examples, some are negative (you shall not) and some are positive (you shall). 

Someone once counted that there are 248 positive mitzvot (“the Do’s”), and 365 negative ones (“the Don’ts”). In addition to the 613 laws of Moses, the Prophets added additional requirements, often in the form of pronouncements of blessings or woes. Witness Isaiah, “Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land.”  and Habkkuk, “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies.” 

Obviously, God’s moral law is always applicable and always valuable. One needn’t question if the Christian should apply the ten commandments. But while the Christian who is under the New Covenant needn’t literally obey the Jewish ceremonial law, these other laws, commands and decrees (and woes and blessings) also have value. We just need to translate the principle behind them into our own culture. 

For instance, what Moses said about land is a sound principle to avoid both speculation and profiteering (consider the value of the land based on the use you can apply to it). Isaiah’s warning has value for any who look to expand their living space at the expense of others (community is more valuable than comfort), and the warning Habkkuk gives is highly relevant in an age when so many young people go out for social drinks. The Law of God is always relevant and always useful, even far beyond the context of the people to whom it was originally given. That is because what is most important is not the wording of the law as we read it (that changes every time we read it in a different language or translation), but the spirit in which it is given. We ought to obey the spirit of the law because “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” The best worship starts with obedience.

So while the Christian is not under any obligation to obey the Jewish mitzvot to the letter, the Christian also must know that God’s law is always good, and that breaking the law of God is always a detriment. It is as Paul said, “I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law.”  That is because breaking His commands is not only damaging to your faith, it lessens your own sense of blessing. The peace of God flees from you, the presence of God becomes almost impossible to discern, and the power of God unavailable. Effectively, you become diminished and not blessed. If you persist in that state, and if you exacerbate the situation by teaching others to do the same as you are doing, you eventually become spiritually blind. Nothing good will come of that! “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” 

Jesus’ warning must then be taken to heart most carefully: “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, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

To come to Christ is to be under a yoke. It is an easy yoke, but it is nonetheless a yoke.

Michael P.V. Barrett

APPLICATION: Intentionality 

How are you fulfilling Christ’s law today?

Permanence (Matthew 5:18)

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In Matthew 5:18, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth  disappear, not  the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” 

Here in Canada, our federal government typically sits and debates changes to our laws for over 120 days every year. Many of the new changes are subtle and go largely unnoticed by all except the subsets of our society that they are specifically crafted to apply toward. A few will impact everyone. Other changes are actually repeals of laws previous governments enacted, because the law of Canada is in a near-constant state of flux. 

That is because the culture of the country is constantly changing and because the government of our country is made up of people, for the people. This is the case in every nation that practices democracy. Point of fact, the laws constantly change when and where a nation practices any form of government – for every form of human government is limited by the human lifespan and impacted by external change. Simply put, because the culture keeps changing as the population and rulers age and new generations come up, the law must keep changing to keep up with the times.

But this is not the case with God’s government. His government is firm, for He is unchangeable and all powerful. His government is forever, for He is eternal. His Law is therefore also unchangeable and eternal. It cannot be repealed or modified until His purposes are accomplished. That is what Jesus is saying in Matthew 5:18. He said that God’s law is eternal truth. Scripture can always be trusted, unlike human laws and ideas that come and go with the times. Jesus said that that Scripture will outlast every human law, even both heaven and earth! What God has said, God has said. His Word – which created the entire universe we exist in – is more powerful than anything we could assemble out of the created world. It therefore outlasts everything, even matter itself. 

Moreover, Jesus said that not even the smallest of the characters used in Scripture is irrelevant. That is because the addition or subtraction of a single character can change the overall implication of a passage, so every character is important. For instance, if God wrote, “The Word was with God and the Word was God,” than that’s what God wrote, and that’s what it means. Not “the Word was with God and the Word was a God,” as some cults try to phrase it. Perhaps that is what Jesus had in mind when He said that the dots that change the pronunciation of the characters – the least strokes of a pen – have eternal value!

One could say that:

By faith in Scripture we gain salvation.

By the truth of Scripture we live rightly, and so gain righteousness.

By the permanence of Scripture we stand on solid footing and so gain confidence. 

By the relevance of Scripture one can make appropriate decisions and so gain wisdom.

By the minutia of Scripture one can study and so gain understanding and knowledge of His way and Kingdom. 


Let the scriptural text make its own point and sell itself. And we can trust Scripture to make its own point because the Spirit is already working in people before they even come to the text.

Palmer Earl


Meditate on Romans 10:17, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Praise God for His infallible Word!

Honoring the Law (Matthew 5:17-18)

“Moses smashing the tablets” by Rembrandt

The Lord said long ago, “You shall not give false testimony against your  neighbor.” By  this command we understand that lying is evil. We see that principle affirmed when we read Revelation 21:8, which says that the end destination of “all liars” is the lake of fire. Consequently, Western civilization has largely codified mistruth as against the law of the land, and until recently, it was socially considered quite wrong to lie. But sometime between 1980 and 2010, it became socially acceptable. Shows like Seinfield made lying appear funny, even hilarious. World leaders like Bill Clinton denied the truth as a political strategy. The election and approval of President Trump made it clear that western society (as lead by the USA) is now perfectly OK with lying. One might go so far as to say that we are no longer living in a post-modern society, but a post-truth society. 

Yet that doesn’t change the reality of what is truth and what is not. Truth is always truth, and a lie – no matter how cleverly packaged, how often told or how widely believed – is still a lie. Lies can and will be found out to be untrue. The truth will always be the truth – it cannot change, or it ceases to be true by definition. Truth is an absolute. The practical reality of that fact is that if you base your life on truth, you have a more sure foundation than someone who bases their life on a lie. 

All the beatitudes Jesus gave us demonstrate this. The truth is that someone who knows the measure of their spiritual poverty before God is more blessed than someone who is deceived into thinking they are great before God and barely need Him. The truth is that God has always given the earth to the obedient meek – He did in the flood, He did it in the conquest of Canaan and He’ll do it again at the end of time. To base your life on such teaching allows that you can live securely and with peace of mind, because you know you are living rightly. 

Jesus teaches us that there is something else you can base your life on. Something that is just as certain, just as permanent and even more instructive. We can base our lives on the certainty of the whole of Scripture. He said “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” 

Jesus had a very high view of the Scripture. From the onset of His ministry He said that nothing He would do would nullify it – “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets”, and that everything He would do would be in complete agreement with it – “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” In other words, He Himself chose to live His life entirely according to and in fulfillment of the written Word of God. That means that everything He did and said during His incarnation is a right application of Scripture, as is fitting for a disciple of God. It means that Jesus took the whole Law – right down to the smallest character and the dots that differentiated pronunciation – very literally and seriously. None of it could be written off as culturally irrelevant given the time that had past since Moses’ day. 

Modern secular society may brush past such integral commands as “Do not lie” as no longer applicable on account of the ages past, and the ignorant will always ignore the line between God’s moral law and the ceremonial law He assigned to the Jews (the cultural lines of demarcation that distinguish the Hebrew people group from other people groups). But the righteous Christ-follower must not have such illusions. Those of us under the New Covenant in Christ have the privilege to uphold God’s eternal truth, and to rightly apply it to ourselves – just as Jesus did. 

Faith and morals are two sides of the same coin.

A.W. Tozer

APPLICATION: Intentionality 

What law do you hold to? What law do you disregard?  Why?

Becoming Scripture (Matthew 5:17)

It is the goal of the Christian to live a life that completely fulfill’s God’s purpose. To   understand that purpose we turn to the Scriptures. We read devotionals, we diligently study the text and we repeatedly hear the Scriptural exhortations of others in preaching. We also do our best to memorize the Word, and to seek to apply it in all circumstances. The more we do that, the closer to our ideal we come. But Christians will readily admit that in spite of all of our preparation, we still fall short of the text. 

Stained Glass Window

Put simply, we sin. Thankfully, the Lord forgives when we confess our sins (1John 1:9) and cleanses us anew. As we learn how to overcome temptation and as we grow in maturity, we sin less and less often. But no matter how we try, we cannot seem to fulfill even a short and simple instruction like, “Be holy,” with lasting consistency. Even if that command is repeated throughout Scripture (Lev 11:44, 45, 19:2, 20:7, 1Cor 1:2, Eph 1:4, Heb 12:14, 1Pet 1:15, 16). If that is so with a two-word instruction repeated at least 9 times, how can we hope to live out the entirety of the Word? For those are but two, and the Bible has around ¾ of a million words (give and take a few, depending on the version you are using). 

To be sure, Christ did not fail to live it all out. Of Him, we read, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  Full of grace, and full of truth! Truly Jesus did live out His prophetic announcement in Matthew 5:17, “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.” Jesus fulfilled ALL of the Word. His was complete identification with the whole Word of God, so much so that it is totally accurate to say that He is the Word, made flesh. 

Yet if He is that, what of us? Can we identify with at least part of the the Word of God? If not a command like “Be Holy”, surely at least another, perhaps lesser demanding part of Scripture?

Most Christians have a life verse. Life verses are verses that resonate with our soul – they are useful and significant. Some had a verse given to them prophetically by the one who led them to Christ. For others, it is a single verse that’s repeatedly come to them as they’ve sought God. In both cases it is a verse which has – in addition to its inherent value as Scripture – a deeply personal attraction, a verse that seems to define one’s spiritual purpose in some capacity. We call it a life verse because we find ourselves repeatedly reflecting on it – over and over again throughout our lives. It is as though our whole lives echo it in some way, so that it becomes ‘our’ verse. 

Yet with age, one can look back and see that most often it was not actually we ourselves trying to live out that verse so much as it was the circumstance of our lives that repeatedly reflected it back to us. That is because it is never us who actually live out the Word. It is Christ – living in us by His Spirit – who is actively fulfilling that verse through us. 

Of course, to recognize that is largely a private matter. Others only see that as we speak of our life verse and testify to how we are experiencing it being fulfilled though us. Yet if we can see a verse of Scripture in our own experience and testify to it being so, we can surely know that it is Christ – living in all of us by His Spirit – that purposes to live out every Word of God through His people (the body whole). Including His commands – even up to and including ‘Be holy”! 

That understanding of His Word helps put our eyes on the value of the collective whole, and of the great value in discipling others. For unless the whole body is discipled, the whole body will not accurately reflect Him to a lost and dying world. Therefore the Christ-follower has two obligations: to grow in personal discipleship that His Word can be reflected in us all the more, and to help disciple our brothers and sisters in Christ, that the whole world would recognize Him working in their midst. Amen.

The best obedience is that which develops from love for Christ and attempts to reflect Christ’s own obedience.

J. .E. McDermond

APPLICATION: Intentionality 

What is your life verse? When was the last time you saw that lived out in your own experience? How can you live it out today?

Daily Fulfillment (Matthew 5:17)

Having spoken to the people about what it means to be blessed of God, and having   exhorted them to live lives that demonstrate His presence, Jesus now turns to the subject of the Scriptures. 

Photo by Fidel Fernando on Unsplash

The Jews knew that any student of God must go to the Word of God to better know Him, but what Jesus had been saying to this point did not seem to entirely line up with what they had been taught by Israel’s teachers, who had daily access to the Word. Blessing as they had been taught was associated with wealth and prosperity and the wonder and beauty of the temple, but Jesus had taught them that to be blessed is to be poor in spirit, to mourn and to hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessing was what you received when you were persecuted for living as God wanted you to live. That was totally counter-cultural to their thinking and virtually everything they had learned.

Perhaps there were many listening to the beatitudes wondering if Jesus was veering away from the Tenach (the holy Scriptures). But now He says, “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.” Jesus’ original audience understood that when someone referred to the Law and the Prophets they were referencing all three parts of the Tenach – the Law (the Torah), the Writings (the Ketuvim) and the prophets (the Neviim). Taken together, these books form what Christians call the Old Testament. Jesus is saying that He did not come to replace the Scripture with His own Words, but rather to fulfill the Scripture as it was already known in its entirety. 

That is a powerful endorsement of the Old Testament as sacred (something He is about to address in much greater detail), and a powerful statement of His own purpose as being in complete alignment with the Old Testament. Jesus is saying that He has a high view of Scripture. That view aligned with what the Jews were taught, and something the Samaritans could not refute (even though they only recognized the first five books of Moses). Yet the things that Jesus taught surely seemed mind-blowing to the crowd gathered before Him. They had never looked at the Scripture that way before. It was all quite striking. 

Even more striking was His latter statement about fulfilling Scripture. It is obviously a prophesy, and a confoundedly blatant one at that. Jesus is saying that He and all He would do sums up everything the prophets wrote in years past! He is saying that His future life and actions would literally fulfill ancient prophesy. To His audience at the time it was an exceedingly boastful comment. But to us on this side of the cross it has profound implications. For we are called to be like Jesus. 

It should be obvious to all that what eternal God said long ago is just as valid today as it was in days long past. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He exists outside of time, so all He says is true throughout time. We who identify ourselves by the Name of God surely know these things. But do we? Does every decision we take reflect our faith in what God has said? Even more importantly, does the way we live life demonstrate our faith in Scripture? Are we seeking to ‘live out’ the Word of God the way Jesus purposed to live it out? 

These are critical questions for us, just as they were for His audience that day. Jesus is exhorting His listeners to take God’s Word to heart, not simply learn about it and claim its promises. After all – to live out the Scripture is experience the truth of the beatitudes He already explained. To know the blessing of God is seek to live out His character even if that brings persecution and hardship in the moment. It is also to make God and His ways known, so that He might make His Name great. Such is the way of blessing. And if Jesus came to do just that – live out the Scripture – we who call ourselves by His Name must do so as well. 

Let all Christians, but especially Christian preachers and teachers […] first study the Scriptures for themselves, then live the Scriptures for themselves, and [only] then teach the Scriptures to others.

William Jones

APPLICATION: Intentionality 

How does what you are planning on doing today reflect the truth of God’s Word and the reality of His Kingdom?

Shining (Matthew 5:14-16)

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God’s followers are the salt of the earth, and as such act as salt in our ungodly  world.  Through us two things happen. The culture around us tastes His presence through our words and actions, and by our prayers and presence we preserve our ungodly world from imminent judgment. But that work only happens when we act like Christ. Christians who don’t speak of Him, don’t act like Him and don’t pray for the unsaved don’t have the same effect. They are like salt still in the saltshaker. Jesus doesn’t want that for us. To express that point, He continues, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”

Salt is hidden in the earth and the sea, and must be bought to the table through significant effort. But light needs no mining or processing. By nature it cannot help but flood the landscape and illume all. Indeed (apart from man-made lasers), light is always diffuse. It spreads out in every direction, and even a ‘beam’ of light created by the sun shining through clouds is seen far outside that which is directly below. Light is meant to provide sight, and it is meant to provide sight to all who see.

A city on a hill has similar characteristics. It is built on a hill so that its citizens can see far beyond its walls, and so that those who look for it can find it easily. It can even be used as a landmark for travelers who pass by. These things are not only not hidden, they are impossible to hide. That is Jesus’ point, that trying to hide it would be completely counter productive, “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.”  

The Christ-life is not a life meant to be hidden. It is a life meant to be lived in the open. A life meant to be seen by all -so that the light of God living in each of us by the Spirit of God – might be clearly visible to everyone. Not only those we intentionally interact with, and not only those we encounter by circumstance, and not only by all who so much as glance in our general direction, but by everyone in vicinity of our lives. When a Christian is present in a society, everyone should know that the kingdom of heaven is nearby and that the gospel is accessible. 

In ancient societies, everyone knew everyone else. Partly that was on account of the nature of small towns, a culture that valued and expected hospitality and on account of the lack of any kind of mass media. In our present day the great majority live anonymous in cities. Most live isolated lives with almost all of their attention consumed by obligations and mass media. Those living ‘within sight’ are therefore no longer those nearby by distance, but those nearby by influence. 

That doesn’t change who we are, it just changes who ‘sees’ us. In many cases, on account to media, that group includes those living in other countries, those living outside our timezone and even our timelines. After all, almost all of those in Christ’s day are forgotten on account of the lack of record. But the content we create today is almost entirely digital. That means that much of what we say and produce will speak for our character and Christ’s glory for years after our demise. 

Never does our light shine as brightly to the glory of God as against the backdrop of our darkest hour of suffering.

John R. Bisagno

APPLICATION: Intentionality 

Your light shines. Who does your light shine upon?

Seasoning (Matthew 5:13)

Photo by Taylor Kiser on Unsplash

As He begins His sermon on the mount in chapter 5, Jesus teaches his crowd  of followers the goal and purpose of life. He starts that work with the beatitudes. One must first recognize one’s own spiritual poverty before God, because to be poor in spirit is a prerequisite to gaining the kingdom of heaven. One must mourn, for to gain God’s comfort is to first loose sin, then sinful behavior, then one’s own plans and purposes. One must have humility, for God opposes the proud and He does not reward the haughty. One must hunger and thirst for the things of God or one will not persevere. One must be merciful and pure or one cannot expect to draw others to the Lord. Jesus spends 2/3 of His beatitudes on these points. 

In the last third – even though He is only beginning His sermon, Jesus already begins to teach about the need to take what you’ve gained from God and give  it to others. The Christ-life must have an evangelical priority. One must be willing to suffer and sacrifice for Christ’s sake to be fruitful in His Kingdom.

To this end Jesus tells us that to be a peacemaker is to spread God’s peace to others. To so live a right life before others that they cannot help but respond means that some will respond negatively, so we must understand that persecution for righteousness sake as a positive. Moreover, to be persecuted for Jesus’ sake is to so identify with Him that others are not just witnessed to, but called to a decision point by our words and deeds – and again some will react negatively, even violently. 

Obviously violence done to oneself – or insult or slander – is not the goal. But the goal is to so identify with Christ that others cannot help but decide on Him for themselves. It should be as though when you are around, people can taste heaven’s reality right here on earth. Or as Jesus puts it, “You are the salt of the earth.”  That is the goal of life – to become ‘salty’ through identification with Jesus so that wherever you are, you bring the taste of heaven, and to stay that way through every circumstance. 

Obviously, salt by nature is always salty. It cannot help but be salty to the taste, and virtually nothing anyone can do to it can stop it from being salty. Yet it can be diluted. In fact, if one puts enough other ‘stuff’ with it, it can completely cease tasting salty. Virtually every soft drink in the world has sodium chloride (salt) in it, but they don’t taste salty at all. There is so much water and sugar and other compounds in them that they taste overwhelmingly like something else. 

Unfortunately many Christians live that kind of lifestyle. They ‘taste’ like something other than heaven to the world around them. They do not cause those around them to consider God or the kingdom of God. The salt Jesus meant them to be has been so watered down by their own priorities and worldliness that they can’t be used to ‘salt’ the people around them anymore than pouring a can of soda on the ground can ‘salt’ the earth. 

That is a significant problem demanding much repentance. It is impossible to draw people to God if you do not season the environment you are in. What good beyond ourselves are we then, if that is the case for us? For as Jesus noted, “But if the 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.” 

Christian salt has no business to remain snugly in elegant little ecclesiastical salt cellars; our place is to be rubbed into the secular community, as salt is rubbed into meat, to stop it going bad. And when society does go bad, we Christians tend to throw up our hands in pious horror and reproach the non-Christian world; but should we not rather reproach ourselves? One can hardly blame unsalted meat for going bad. It cannot do anything else. The real question to ask is: Where is the salt?

John Stott

APPLICATION: Intentionality 

By your presence, words and actions, what flavour are you seasoning your environment with?