February 7, 2021 Who Enters the Kingdom Part 5

Who Enters the Kingdom?

Part Five

February 7, 2021

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. [1]

 

We are answering this question: Who will enter the kingdom?

 

We have been considering our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount. It is certainly one of the greatest sermons ever given, if not the greatest. Peter’s sermon in Acts, chapter two, and Paul’s sermon in Acts, chapter 17, are also great, although both much shorter than our Lord’s.

 

In order understand this sermon well, we took note of four things. At the risk of being repetitive, I will review them briefly, because they are important:

 

First, we saw that this sermon is for his disciples. It is not for the general crowd. Because it is for his disciples, it is for us. Because we are also the Lord’s disciples.

 

Second, we saw that the theme of the sermon is entering the kingdom. Our Lord’s great message is how we need to think and live in order to enter the kingdom.

 

Third, we learned that the “kingdom of heaven” is not heaven. Rather, it is the earthly kingdom that the Lord will establish when he returns to the earth.

 

Fourth, we learned that not all genuine Christians will enter the kingdom that is coming. Only those who live by God’s will as revealed in this sermon, will enter. (Those followers of the Lord who fail to live by Christ’s words will be excluded from the kingdom and must wait until the New Heavens and the New Earth to be united with the Lord.)

 

So, in verse 13 our Lord says:

 

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. [2]

 

In what way are we salt?

 

Salt is a marvelous substance. Animals seek it because they instinctively recognize that they need it. (Of course, too much salt is not healthy, but too much of anything is not healthy, even water!) In nature, there are deposits of minerals called salt licks. These are salt compounds containing either sodium, potassium, calcium, or other minerals essential for health. Deer and other animals seek out these salt licks and lick them (that’s why they are called “licks”) in order to get these minerals into their systems.

 

Salt in moderation is not only healthy, but essential.

 

In 1965 the coaches at the University of Florida noticed a sharp decline in performance of the athletes on the football team both during practices and during games (some players may have passed out, so the story goes). Florida is a hot place, and as the players exerted great effort and sweat, the attending medical staff understood that this decrease in energy was due to a loss of salts in their bodies (sodium and potassium salts, commonly called electrolytes). So, the UF College of Medicine was asked to develop a drink to prevent this. The result was a drink with salts added - Gatorade – called so because the football team was the Gators. It was then marketed publicly and has become one of the most popular sport drinks ever.

 

Besides the health benefits, salt has two main purposes. It acts as a preservative and it is pleasant to the taste, making certain foods taste better.

 

When I was a boy, my mother occasionally prepared cooked spinach with our meals. I was an avid fan of the cartoon, Popeye, when I was little. So, I was sold on the idea that spinach was good for you and would make me strong. When my mother would make it I would sit down thinking, “If I eat this, I will be strong like Popeye!” But, after a couple of bites, I would think, “I am not eating this stuff even if it makes me the strongest boy in the school!” I did not like it!

 

Fast forward to when I was 19 years old and in the Air Force. I woke up late one Saturday morning, having the day off. It was already lunch time. I walked over to the chow hall and got my lunch and saw a friend sitting at a table by himself. Because it was Saturday and still early, he and I were about the only guys in the cafeteria. I sat down with him and all he had was a bowl of cooked spinach. He looked up at me and said, “Man this spinach is so awesomely good! I can’t believe it!” I thought he had lost his mind. As I watched him eat, he was just going on about how great it was. Since I had not had a bite of spinach for ten years I thought I would give it a try. I went back up and got a bowl of spinach. When I sat down he said, “Put a fair amount of salt on it. It makes a difference.” I did. I took a bite. Do you know what? It tasted awesomely good, just like he said! He was on his third bowl and I went up and got another. I’ve liked spinach ever since! Salt makes spinach taste better! It also makes potatoes taste better!

 

Which of these two qualities is Jesus alluding to when he says that we are the salt of the earth? Is it fighting corruption or making things taste better?

 

He means to teach that we hinder corruption. This aspect of salt most closely matches the function of light in the very next verse.

 

When Jesus compares us to salt, “it means that we exercise our influence over the earth created by God to keep it in its original condition. The earth, which was created by God, has become fallen. In a sense, it has become rotten and corrupted. Salt kills the germs and eliminates this rottenness. Any medical doctor can tell you that salt kills germs, eliminates rottenness, and preserves things in their original condition. By nature, salt is an element that kills the germs of corruption and eliminates them. Thus, through its killing and preserving function, salt brings the earth back to its original condition or keeps it in its original condition. Hence, the function of salt is to preserve what God has created. The entire earth is becoming more and more rotten. Therefore, we must exercise our influence over this corrupted earth. To the corrupted earth, the people of the kingdom of the heavens are the element that keeps the earth from being fully corrupted.”[3]

 

Consider how far the earth and its people have been corrupted. God created a man and a woman and created them to be united in marriage. At every level, this blessed and divine institution has been attacked. Divorce is easily obtained for any and every reason; whereas God only allows one reason. Men unite with men in perverted rebellion against what God has ordained. Likewise, some women seek other women. Even the very foundation of our identities given to us by God and manifested by biological distinctions is denied and people pretend to be the opposite of what they are. It is an expression of their rebellion against the created order.

 

The earth’s corruption extends to every area of life: our work ethics, politics, business, athletic endeavors, even our attitudes towards babies and children.

 

As salt preserved food in the ancient world, so we are to preserve God’s order in the modern world. We do this through our living and through prayer. But, mainly, we do this through our speaking. Indeed, it is our speaking that magnifies and sheds light on our living. It is our speaking that gives wings to our prayers. Yes, we are to have a pure thought life and be faithful to our spouses. We are to be good parents. We are to live the way our Lord has directed us to live. But, if we never talk to people about their own rebellion against God, they will (if they even notice) just assume that our lifestyle choices are nothing more than a personal preference.

 

Speaking without living becomes hypocrisy. Living without speaking becomes impotency.

 

We can be salt as individuals. We can make a difference by where we go and what we say when we get there. The Lord is calling you to be salt! Preserve those around you!

 

However, it seems that the main idea of our Lord is that we are salt corporately. The you is plural. In verse 14, he says, “You are the light of the world.” Not, “you are the lights of the world.” That is, God’s called-out people, collectively, are salt to the earth. Historically, this has been the case. When the church was spiritually strong it exercised a positive influence on the society around it. Some examples of this are: the Colonial days prior to America being founded as a nation (most of the 17th century); the Great Awakening (mid 18th century); the Second Great Awakening (early 19th century); and Western Society in general during the Great Depression and for three or four decades following. As the church lost its saltiness and became more like the world, it also lost its influence.

 

Thus, it is salient to be salt as an individual. You can influence others to rethink their choices and to turn to the Lord. But it is just as important to be part of a faithful local church where our collective influence preserves and protects.

 

Our Lord then tells us what happens when salt looses its taste. Table salt does not lose its taste. But other salts found in nature can be diluted by other substances and lose their strength. For the kingdom people to become tasteless means that they have lost their salting function. They have become the same as the earthly people, with nothing to distinguish them from unbelievers. In their minds, they may continue to believe God’s designs and God’s ways. But they have no influence with anyone. They may even come to adopt the world’s ways themselves. Whether they do or not, they just accept the corruption around them, as Lot did, and do nothing. They have lost their saltiness.

 

What does our Lord say will happen?

 

First, he says that its saltiness cannot be restored (through a rhetorical question). There is no remedy when a church, or a person, goes the way of the world. This is further evidence that the Lord’s main thrust here is with his people collectively. An individual may repent from their silence and lack of influence. Even this is difficult, though. It is one thing to repent of one single sin. It is another to repent from a way of life. It can be done but it is not easy because we grow accustomed to doing things (or NOT doing things) a certain way and it is difficult.

 

But for a whole church to change is even more difficult. If it is hard for one believer to change the way they live, it is ten times harder for a church to change the way it is. This is why 7,000 churches close their doors every year in the U.S.! They cannot be restored.

 

Then what does our Lord say? “It is no longer good for anything but to be cast out.” While salt keeps its function its place is within the house. But as soon as it loses its function it is cast out. So, our Lord says to a church:

 

16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.[4]

 

Also, it “will be trampled under people’s feet.” Thus, those who have lost their salting function will be rejected by both God and men. The Lord’s hand of protection will be temporarily removed. When you are cast out of the house, it means that you will not enter the kingdom. Whole churches will be excluded from the kingdom! Seek to be part of a faithful church! The way of the transgressor is hard! That saying means that it is hard now. It will be hard now and it will be even harder during the kingdom age!

 

Although the main comparison to salt is its ability to deny corruption, it is also true that, when we are living by the spirit, we bring flavor to life! A person who is enjoying the Lord makes life flavorful to those around them. Paul alluded to this:

 

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.[5]

 

The apostle likens the followers of Christ to a sweet fragrance. To those who are of the elect, it will be a pleasant fragrance. This is comparable to salt’s ability to make things taste better. When you are living joyfully you will bring people out of their apathy.

 

Our Lord then likens his own people to light. And concludes this section with:

 

16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. [6]

 

We are light. But, some disciples hide their light under a bushel. That is, no one knows that they are followers of Christ. Why don’t they know? Because these bushel-hiding Christians neither say anything nor do they have acts of kindness that shine forth the love of Christ. Here, the light represents the things we actually do. Our living. But, not just our living, our living that is observed by others.

 

As with salt, we can be light as individuals. You can be a light, dispelling ignorance, wherever you go. But, more appropriately, we are a light corporately. When you are an active member of a local church you become a lamp! Indeed, the apostle John likens the churches to lampstands in Revelation:

 

12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands,[7]

 

These seven lampstands represent the seven churches in Asia minor. If the churches cease to be a faithful witness, the Lord removes their lampstand (Rev. 2:5).

 

Who will enter the kingdom? It is those who are salt and continue to be salt. Who will enter the kingdom? Those who are light and who continue to shine. These promises are for us as individuals and for us as a church.

 

What do we do if we recognize that we have ceased being salt, if we perceive that we are not shining? The answer is always the same. First, we confess to the Lord our great shortfall. Then, we must do something about it. We do not do something out of our own human will. That is a recipe for failure. After our confession, we must call upon the Lord to empower us and we must walk in the spirit. We do this by eating his word and communing with the Lord throughout the day.

 

Jesus said this:

 

57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.[8]

 

The reason some of us have lost our saltiness is that we have not been feeding upon Christ. Eat him and you will live by him. Eat him and you will shine as a light to others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:13–16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:13). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] From Witness Lee, Life-Study of Matthew, Message Sixteen

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Re 3:16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 2:14–16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Re 1:12). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 6:57). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.