I listened to a preacher who was preaching on the very text we looked at in the previous post, Matthew 5 about salt and light. He read the text correctly but he failed to preach the text correctly. The Bible says, “Ye ARE the salt of the earth” and “Ye ARE the light of the world.” But when he began preaching he said, “You are TO BE the salt of the earth” and “You are TO BE the light of the world.” Do you see the difference. He took an indicative (a statement of fact) and made it an imperative (a command). And that happens far too often.
When this is done, the text is twisted to say something that it never intended to convey. What the preacher was saying to the congregation was that they needed to do a better job of being salt and try harder to be light. At one point he said it was their JOB. He also went on to say that they could not offer up a prayer unless they were living in holiness. What he was doing was what many Baptist preachers tend to do: they guilt the congregation to make a greater effort to do better. It is their duty to be saltier salt and brighter light. Of course, he offered the application that you can’t listen to rock and roll music and be salt and light and you can’t dress certain ways or have your hair long and be salt and light. You see, a command or imperative is law not gospel. So if I get rid of my music and if I dress the way the preacher desires, I will be salt and light. It is no different than what the Pharisees did. They added laws that they were able to keep so they could to achieve salvation. So if I change the radio station I listen to, if I dress differently, and if I get my hair cut……then I will be ok….then I will be salt and light.
Either Jesus said “YOU ARE” or He said “YOU ARE TO BE” Either we are, by the work of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, salt and light or we need to make the effort to be both. Instead of reminding people what they ARE in Christ (salt and light) and encouraging them to nourish their relationship with Christ so that they will be saltier salt and brighter light we tell them to come and ask God to help them do better. Instead of asking them why they profess to be Christians and then are not what Christians are, we tell them get the externals right. Instead of telling them a decrease in their saltiness and light is the indication of a problem between them and God and maybe they are not even saved, we tell them to roll up their sleeves and do better.
And don’t you know, some came to the alter after that preacher was done, and asked God to help them do better. But they never addressed their relationship with God. They never addressed the effort in making their relationship with God through Christ closer. Their distant or anemic relationship will stay the same but they will try harder. And when they fail again. The preacher will lay another guilt trip on them, and they will determine to try even harder next time. The reason people like this kind of preaching is that it is easier to change your music, clothes, and hair length then it is to trust Christ. One you can do on your own but the other you can’t do without the work of the Spirit. Without Christ you can do NOTHING. But with Him you can do ALL THINGS.
If you are saved, you are the salt of the earth and you are the light of the world. Salt and light are used for specific purposes. If you are not salt and not light at all then you need to be saved because the Spirit is not in you. If you are not as salty or bright as you should be, you need to address your relationship with Him. The law (commands) is designed to show you the impossibility of sinful humanities ability to keep them and drive us to Christ who did obey and who enables us to obey now.
This same preacher said that he refused to pray at a school function because they had been playing rock and roll music right before they asked him to pray. “How can the same ones who were listening to that music now ask him to pray?” he asked. Maybe because they are lost and and like darkness more than the light. “I couldn’t be light to them,” he said. You begin to see that being light is an effort to make more than an envitable outcome of what we are in Christ.
The danger is that we are always addressing externals and not our relationship with Him. If we can get the people to look right, act right, talk right then all is well. No, that’s not it. If we can get them to Christ and if they will trust in Him as Lord and Savior, then they will be in the light and the light will be in them…. then all will be well.