Salt, Light, the Saved, the Savior and the Law

Summer on the Mount

When is the last time you ate something with salt on it? What about the last time you were in a room with a light that was on? In Matthew 5:13-20, Jesus—because of His death on the cross—calls Christians salt and light. David Leventhal teaches us what that means and how we can apply it to our lives today.

David LeventhalMay 19, 2019DallasMatthew 5:13-20; Matthew 5:13; Matthew 5:14-15; Matthew 5:16; Matthew 5:17-18; Matthew 5:19; Matthew 5:20; Luke 18:9-12

Discussing and Applying the Sermon

  • How are you doing at being salt—preventing decay and providing savor—where God has you? Are there any conversations—for the purpose of preventing decay—you’ve been avoiding that you need to have?
  • How are you doing at being light—driving back darkness? When was the last time you engaged in a spiritual conversation with someone? Shared the gospel with someone?
  • What’s one way this week you can be proactive to be salt and/or light?


When is the last time you ate something with salt on it? What about the last time you were in a room with a light that was on? In Matthew 5:13-20, Jesus—because of His death on the cross—calls Christians salt and light. David Leventhal teaches us what that means and how we can apply it to our lives today.

Key Takeaways

  • When you are studying God’s Word, study paragraphs, not verses.
  • Typically speaking, the world’s response to someone who is all-in with Jesus is persecution. Matthew 5:13-20—typically titled “Salt & Light”—is a disciple’s response to the world.
  • The last thing God needs is a smarter sinner. The last thing we need is to be accountable to something without applying it.
  • Salt does two things: 1) Prevents preserves; 2) Provides savor…it enhances.
  • How are you doing at preventing decay in your sphere of influence? How are you doing at making Christianity “taste good” to others?
  • Our problem is that we like to hang out in the "salt shaker”—the church building—too much. We like holy huddles too much. Yes, we should gather with other Christians, but then we need to go out and reach the world.
  • Light does one thing: drive back darkness.
  • Our faith is personal, but it is never private.
  • Christians don’t do random acts of kindness. We do acts of kindness because our heart has been informed and transformed by Jesus.
  • Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law. He didn’t get rid of the law or do away with the Old Testament. He fulfilled it.
  • Jesus’ death was the once and final sacrifice. On the cross, He perfectly met the demands of a holy God. All the law and the prophets were fulfilled.
  • Your New Testament won’t make sense without your Old Testament, and your Old Testament makes a whole lot more sense because of your New Testament.
  • The righteousness that Jesus is talking about is one of the heart. It has do to with intent.
  • The phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” appears 32 times in Matthew…it expresses: God’s ultimate and complete sovereignty of His world; God’s rule and reign in the lives of His true disciples; God’s future plan when His will shall completely and perfectly be on earth as it is in heaven; it is right now—through us; it is to come—through the final destruction of sin when Jesus returns.
  • A Kingdom of Heaven person always has a reformed life.
  • You can’t obey the Sermon on the Mount. You need Jesus, and you need help. You need other Christians to help you be the man/woman God wants you to be.
  • Suggested Scripture study: Matthew 5:13-20; Isaiah 7:4; Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:2; Zechariah 9:9; Zechariah 12:10; Psalm 22; Isaiah 50:6; Isaiah 53; Romans 6:23; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Romans 12:1; Luke 18:9-12
  • Sermon: Salt and Light
  • Sermon: Taking Light to the World

Well, good morning, Watermark! How are we doing? What a great time to be together. My name is David Leventhal, and for those of you who don't know me, I get a chance to serve on the elder team with Dean, Todd, Brian and Beau Fournet. It's a joy to get to be here with you.

Now last night my wife and I came to the 4:00 service. We got to hear from my faithful brother, my colaborer in the Lord, John Elmore, as he expounded. He did a really great job teaching on some verses in Matthew 5.

Then John got sick. Real, real sick. About 7:30 this morning, I got a call. So here we are. That means we should pray. I'm going to pray for y'all. Maybe while I'm praying, y'all could be praying for me, and we'll get this horse out of the barn.

Heavenly Father, it is a joy to get to be with your people this morning. Father, thank you that as the sun came up in the east this morning, we were reminded your mercies are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness. I pray for our next little bit of time together as we unpack your Word, your God-breathed, inspired, timeless Word, that you would use it to transform our hearts and our minds. We pray for our faithful brother, John, that you would heal his body from whatever funk has taken it over. Thank you for his preparation and the way he led us yesterday.

Father, I pray for anybody in this room as we get ready to unpack your Word, that you would do business in the hearts of those of us who need to have business done in our hearts, which I have a feeling, Lord, is everybody in the room including, and especially, me. Thank you for Jesus. We pray this time will be God-honoring and it might be good for our souls. In Jesus' name, amen.

All right. We are in week three of our Summer on the Mount series, where we are working through what is easily the most famous sermon ever given. In Matthew 5, 6, and 7, the Sermon on the Mount. Today we are going to be talking about two sections of the Sermon on the Mount.

Here's a free tip: When you study God's Word, don't just focus on a single verse. That's not the way the Bible was written. The basic unit of thought in the Bible is called a pericope. It's called a paragraph. It's what we know as a paragraph. That's the basic unit of thought. So when you're studying God's Word, study paragraphs. Don't just isolate one verse from itself. That's how we can get into trouble. When you pull a verse out, you pull it out of its context.

The reality is while you might be able to "do all things through Christ who strengthens me," you're not bench-pressing 450 pounds if you're 90 pounds and have never lifted weights. I don't care that you can "do all things through Christ who strengthens me." That's not what Paul means in that one verse. You need the paragraph to make sense of that one verse.

We're going to be looking at two paragraphs this morning in the Sermon on the Mount. We're going to be looking at Matthew 5:13-20. I'm going to read it to you, so you can hear it all together, and then we'll dive in. If you've got your Bible, I'm working out of the ESV translation, if that matters to you. We'll also have the text up on the screens behind me. You ready? Okay. Let's get some work done. Matthew 5:13.

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. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 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.

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. 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. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Therefore whoever relaxes 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 does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Where are we? Let me remind you last week Todd shared with us about the Beatitudes. It's blessed are the meek, poor in spirit. All that stuff. If you remember, the Beatitudes ends with: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account."

In those last two Beatitudes we see this is what the world's response is to a disciple. The world's response to a disciple. Someone who says, "I'm all in with Jesus." The respond is persecution. That's been the case since Jesus ascended to heaven. Christians around the world have been persecuted. We happen to live in a country that has had unusual favor in the history of all mankind with rights to our religious freedoms.

So for us, persecution hasn't been that bad, but make no mistake about it. If you live a life described in the Beatitudes, you will be persecuted. That shares with us what the world's response is to disciples. Jesus is now in a transition, in verses 13 to 16, talking about salt and light. He's going to share with us what the disciple's response is to the world.

So the world persecutes. How do we respond? We respond by being salt and by being light. That's the Christian's function in the world today. Jesus says, "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 feet."

Now I mentioned to you earlier that I got a call 90 minutes ago. It was 7:30 this morning, which is true. But I had a head start, because I've been personally working through the Sermon on the Mount with about 15 or 16 other men. We schedule it out to do it together as our personal devotional time. So I've actually had about 10 to 12 hours in this passage this week, studying God's Word and trying to unpack it, so I had a little bit of a head start.

The way that I study God's Word today is by using an app on my iPad. It looks something like this. The reason I do this, I'll explain this in a second, is because I discovered, sort of as an aside, we should be in God's Word, not because, as I'll talk about here lately, God's going to be like super impressed that you covered the New Testament in a year. We should be in God's Word, because God's Word is what gives us direction. It's his way of communicating with us and teaching us the things that should matter. What should we prioritize?

It's all in God's Word. That's how I get to know the heavenly Father. I discovered one day… I've been studying God's Word for a while. My method at the time was that I'd read it and I would take notes on my computer. Typing. It occurred to me one day that I was producing a lot of pages of notes, because I can type pretty quickly, without a whole lot of heart engagement.

That began to concern me, because the last thing God needs is a smarter sinner. The last thing I need is to read a passage and to be held accountable for it and not apply it. I'm just putting myself further into unaccountability. Right? I thought, "I need to change up the way I'm doing this so that I can engage not just my mind, but my heart."

So I transitioned to a couple different methods. This is one of them. I also went with this crazy caveman way with like an actual pen and paper. You know, like in a journal. I mean crazy. I discovered that when I engage my hands with a pen, or an iPad pencil, it forces me to slow down and ingest more of God's Word.

Now the point is that I don't care how you do it, but whenever you're studying God's Word, make sure you're engaging your heart. Don't read God's Word for God's Word's sake. Read God's Word so that it could change you, transform your heart, redeem your perspective, remind you of what's true, remind you of what's not true. For me, this is the current season, I use an app. If you're interested, it's called Adobe Draw. It's what I use, and it helps me produce this.

The first thing I noticed about salt and light is that Jesus says here, "You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world." That "you are" in Greek, that's in the emphatic position. Now you're like, "What does that mean?" It doesn't mean a whole lot to most of us in 99 percent of our lives, but what it means in this text is that Jesus is saying emphatically you and you alone are the salt of the earth.

What does salt do? Salt does two things. Now in the first century it only did two things. Today we use it for some things like to defrost ice or make sure we don't slip on the concrete. We've got some other uses, but in the first century salt had two uses, and only two uses. One is it preserved meat. It prevented decay. It saved food. The other purpose of salt was that it savors. It added flavor to it.

Salt prevents decay. So if you're in the first century, and you've just killed a lamb, you've got some lambchops you're working down and you've got leftovers. If you leave that out, you can't put it in the refrigerator, because the refrigerator doesn't exist. They preserved it with salt. Salt would mean you can still enjoy that meat. It would taste a little different, but you could still enjoy it and it wouldn't go to waste because it was packed in salt.

Salt sucked and dried out the meat. Took out all the bacteria and impurities that would have otherwise made you sick as a dog. Salt prevents the spread of decay. We have to ask ourselves today, "How are we doing?" The believer, the disciple of Jesus, if you say, "I'm all in with Jesus," Jesus says, "Great. That makes you two things: salt and light."

Those two things, as we'll see here in a second, they only have a very limited purpose. You're not taking salt and sprinkling it on your kid's birthday cake. That's terrible. You're not taking salt and using it as fertilizer to help your grass grow. That's a bad idea. Salt does two things: it preserves and it enhances flavor.

Christian disciple, that's our job. That's who we are. We are to be people that push back the decay of culture. We are to live our lives in such a way, as we looked in the Beatitudes…meekness, peacemakers, pure in heart, poor in spirit…such that our lives, when we walk into a room, we begin to prevent decay.

I had a chance a couple weeks ago to play golf with some guys. Kind of a business trip. The reality is when you get on a golf course with a bunch of guys, many who don't know Jesus, the conversation really is not that edifying. It can devolve very quickly. My job in that instance is to be salt to prevent decay. Right?

It's to make sure I'm adding to the conversation things that don't accelerate the decay. The objectification of women. The crass and impure jokes. All the things that might go on at a golf course, or in a locker room at a high school, or at your fitness center, or in your office breakroom.

Your life, my life, Jesus says the life of anybody who says, "I want to be your disciple. I want to be a kingdom of heaven person," is to prevent decay. We have to ask ourselves, "How are we doing at preventing decay?"

When we see legislation come across the board that would enable an abortion at any stage in a pregnancy, if we're salt, we begin to work to prevent that decay. Say, "No, no, no. Life matters. Life in the womb maters. The life of the mother matters. The life of the society where you're pulling out an entire generation of human beings made in the image of God, that matters."

We stand forth as salt to prevent that decay. When we see our kids, or our friends, or our spouses, or our folks at our Community Group, doing things that are not going to be leading them towards life, that are going to lead them towards decay and rancidness, it's our job, because we're disciples, to be salt in those situations. That's just what we do.

Now our problem, frankly, is we like to hang out in the saltshaker. We like to be together like on Sunday morning. Isn't this great? We've got temperature control. We've got nice seats. We're comfortable. Everybody put on moderately decent clothes. Some of you look better than others. We like to stay in our holy huddle. We like to be salt, but just kind of in the saltshaker. Jesus says, "No, no, no, no, no. Salt is meant to go out."

We come together corporately like this on a Sunday or a Saturday at 4:00 to remind each other of what's true about us so that the rest of our week we're ready to go. We're salt and we're light. If you look up and your entire world is made up of other little salt particles…you don't have any impurities in your life around you, no neighbors, family, or coworkers…you're not doing the job of what salt is supposed to be doing. We need to be engaged in the world. In the world but not of the world. Exactly. That's what salt does.

So if you're in your little holy huddle and it's super comfortable, and you guys all like to be together, I'm going to let you know, "Hey. There's a season for that, and it's great to remind each other, but get out of the saltshaker!" God did not save us for the holy huddle. He saved us to go and teach people all that he commanded them, to obey.

Salt also enhances. Do you enhance? If I went to your place of work, if you went to my place of work, would our employers say to you, "Man, that gal that works for me in accounting or marketing or whatever, I don't know what it is about her, but she makes this place better. She's always here on time. She works hard. I've noticed that when people are having a difficulty, they seem to gravitate towards her. Or they seem to gravitate towards him. They just make our place better."

That's saltiness. That's a good thing. If you go to your office and nobody knows you're a Christian, you've been there for two years and nobody knows you have a faith, are you really being salty? No. Let me answer it for you. No, you're not. You're probably not rolling back the decay, and you're not enhancing the area. That's what you're called to do.

I don't know if you guys read your Watermark News this morning about Natalie and her husband. I read it and highlighted a couple things that she said. She said, "When I was younger, I was in church but not in a relationship with the Lord." She came into the building, but she wasn't a disciple. She was a part of the crowd. "I believed about God, but I viewed many religious people as hypocritical and thought the church was selling a pack of lies."

There's a decent chance as an unregenerate person, her perspective wasn't spot on, but I bet she ran into some people that weren't being salt and light and hurting her church. Then she says later on, "We were engaged and we were living together. God had begun to work in our hearts, and we knew, we began to understand what God calls us to in a relationship."

God says let there not be a hint of sexual immorality. Hebrew says the marriage bed is to be kept pure. They realized, "We're not doing that." Do you know what they did? They did a salty move. They moved out for the remainder of their engagement. That is being salt. That's rolling back the decay in their relationship, and that's what we need to do.

I had a story if you guys did Summit this past year, Todd talked about the way that men are supposed to stand up, step out, and speak up. He shared stories each week about men that were doing that. There was one guy who said, "I was with some coworkers from a different office, and they came to Dallas for a team meeting. During one of the breaks, one of the members of the office entered the conference room and started joking about a visiting female coworker.

It was at that point that I found myself, quite frankly without much thought, reminding that coworker that he is married and he should only have eyes for one woman, his wife. The room went silent for a bit, and then everyone went back to work. No more joking for the remainder of the visit."

That's what salt does. It prevents decay. That's what we're supposed to be, but we're not just supposed to be salt that prevents decay. Right? We're suppose to be light. Jesus says, "You are the light of the world. You and you alone are the light of the world." He would say, "A city that's set on a hill cannot be hidden." Why can't it be hidden? Because it's on a hill. You can't hide something that's on a hill. It's there. You just see it.

"Nor do people light a lamp and put it in their basket." Why would you not put it under a basket? Because that defeats the whole purpose of the light. In Dallas, when the sun goes down, you've got streetlamps, you've got the glow of your iPhone, you've got your TV light, your clock light. We've got all kinds of lights.

If you've ever been to a third-world country, or Israel in the first century, when the sun goes down it's dark. I mean dark, dark. Unless you have a lamp, some oil, a wick, and a light to produce light in the house. If you were to cover that light up, guess what? It would be dark. The whole purpose of light is to push out the darkness.

Right now there's been this entire time a lamp under here. It's been on this whole time. How has that lamp been doing under there? A big bag of nothing. It hasn't enhanced at all. Why? Because it's been covered up. Jesus says, "You and you alone are the light of the world to push back darkness. Your one job is to push back darkness."

Another story from the same Summit series. A guy shares a story that he went on a sales call last week. "I rang the doorbell. I waited a long time before the homeowner, the woman, answered the door. She said she was sorry, but she explained to me she was on the phone with her mother, telling her she was getting a divorce attorney later that day.

I told her she was married to the exact person God wanted her to be married to, and I invited them to Watermark. They came even though they lived in an outskirt city that's not necessarily close. Then my wife and I went to lunch with her, and we shared with them. Now they've signed up for re|engage at a church in their area."

What do you call that? It's called being a light. Guy walks up to a door. He sees darkness. He sees a woman whose marriage has not ended the way she thought it was going to end. The happily ever after, the for better or for worse, is crumbling. He says, "I have the answer." He brings light into it.

That's what disciples of Jesus do. They bring light into a situation. Are you bringing light? Am I bringing light into the world? If I went to your neighbors, your coworkers, and I said, "Tell me about how David and Missy are doing in your neighborhood?" What are they going to say? Will they so, "Oh, they enhance it." or "Who? David and who? Oh, the guys with the big van and all those kids? Yeah, we know them a little bit."

Our job is to bring light. You'll see here that I highlighted this "so that". Whenever you see a term like "so that" or "therefore" or "because", those are important words. Because what Jesus is going to say here is that whatever went before is there for a reason, and he's going to tell us what is that reason. He says, "We shine our light before others…" Which is to say that while your faith, my faith, may be personal, it is never private.

We don't keep our faith to ourselves for fear of rocking the boat. People are on a path to hell, to eternal separation from God. Our works, our good works, are to be before them so they can see them. Why? …"so that the world may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven." We don't do random acts of kindness. We do acts of kindness because our hearts have been informed and transformed by Jesus.

I had a chance one time to help a woman who had a flat tire in my parking lot at work. I changed her tire, and I said to her, "You need to know I used to be a guy that would not have stopped to help you, because it would have been a burn on my time. I don't want to get my pretty soft hands dirty." I said, "The only reason I am stopping to help you is because Jesus has transformed my life. All of a sudden I care about things I used to not care about, like your flat tire."

That's what Jesus does. It's not because I'm a great guy. It's because God has changed me and I want other people to know the Father who has transformed my life and taken me from a kingdom of darkness, death, and decay into the kingdom of his beloved Son, into the light. That's why we do things. We don't do random acts of anything. We do purposeful acts of God-redeeming works in this world so that people might know our Father.

So no more random acts of kindness. You give glory to God, because the only reason we care about other people is because God transformed our hearts. That's the Christian's function in the world, but that's not all. We have another paragraph to work through. Jesus says he has come to fulfill the law. We're going to learn about the Messiah's function in the world. Verse 17.

"Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law all is accomplished."

So, here's my version for the next paragraph. Jesus in the Old Testament. This is what I spin on again. I had a head start. I had a 90-minute heads up but 10 hours of prep work. Right? I was in God's Word. We should always be ready to give an answer for the hope that's within us, Peter says. Part of the reason I'm able to get up here on short notice is not because I'm super witty or super smart. It's because I've been in God's Word all week. I had a head start. Jesus says, "Don't think I've come to abolish the Law or the Prophets."

Why would he even say that? He would say that because all of a sudden Jesus shows up on the scene. He's not formally trained by any of the rabbis. He doesn't seem to obey at all the oral tradition we talked about in week one. In fact, not only does he not follow the oral tradition, he seems to really not like it. Worse, he hangs out with sinners…tax collectors and the wreck of the society.

Who is this man? Has he come to upturn our entire system? Jesus says, "No. I have not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I know you're asking because I don't look like what the religious system for hundreds of years has looked like, but I've not come to abolish them. I have come to fulfill them."

I hear people say regularly, "Oh. Jesus just did away with the Old Testament. We don't have to… The Old Testament…. Jesus did away with it." No, no, no, no. Jesus did not do away with the Old Testament. He fulfilled it. In what ways did he fulfill the Law and the Prophets? Jesus says, "I didn't come to abolish the Law or the Prophets." Which is his way of saying the whole Old Testament.

There are also some differences there. The Law, the Mosaic law…Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, your first five books of your Bible, 613 commands of God. Jesus is going to say, "I have come to live the Mosaic law perfectly. I will not stumble. I will follow not only the letter, but the spirit of the law." Which was missing in the day.

"There will not be a piece of the law that I will not obey perfectly in letter and in spirit. There will be no need for me to go to the temple to make a sacrifice for my sins, because there won't be any sins. And, I'm going to fulfill the Prophets." All those writings where these men… Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Malachi, Josiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, all those guys. They were calling the nation of Israel back to God.

In their writings, their God-ordained writings, they were prophesying, telling about the one who would come to set Israel free and to fulfill all the promises. The Messiah. Jesus says. "I'm going to fulfill the Law, and I'm going to fulfill all of the Prophets, all of the prophecies." If you look at his life and God's Word, you'll see that he hit every one of them. His birth narrative was foretold in Isaiah 7:4; Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:2. His death narrative in Zachariah 9:9, 12:10; Psalm 22; Isaiah 56; Isaiah 53. All these things that wrote about the Messiah. Jesus fulfilled them all.

He wasn't coming to get rid of it. He was saying, "I am the culmination of everything that's been written." He fulfilled the law in his body on the cross. What do I mean by that? The Jews, under the Mosaic system, had to go before and prevent sacrifices for their sins regularly as a reminder to them that they could not earn their way to God. It was always by faith. God said, "For you to continue to be in my presence, there's a sacrificial system I instituted."

Over and over and over again. Because the sin kept continuing. Jesus comes and he lives 33 years a perfect life. A sinless life. He goes to the cross. On that cross the wrath of God, the justice of God that needed to be satisfied, because the wages of sin are death, Paul says in Romans… It's been that way since Genesis 3, and it's that way all the way through. The wages from sin, what we earn from our sin, is death.

Jesus says, "I'm going to go to the cross and in the cross, my perfection, my perfect obedience to the law, my fulfillment of all the prophecies is going to satisfy once and for all the requirements of God, the wrath of God that was due us because of our sin. Not just the sin we do but the imputed sin in our heart, that we never see God apart from his influxion in our hearts."

Hebrews 10:4 reminds us that these sacrifices the writer talks about, these Old Testament sacrifices, were a reminder of sins every year. Because it's impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Bulls and goats can't take away sins. They just allow the nation to continue to come before God. What can take away sins? A spotless lamb of God takes away the sins of the world.

So in his death on the cross, the Law, the Prophets, were all fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus is not anti-Old Testament. We should not be anti-Old Testament people. Your Bible is Genesis to Revelation. All of it. Let me just say as gently as I can, if you have a problem with Leviticus, the problem is not with Leviticus. The problem is with us. If you get into Jeremiah, and you're like, "What in the world?" The problem is not with Jeremiah.

Because all scripture, Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16, all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful. Your New Testament won't make sense without your Old Testament. Your Old Testament will make a lot more sense with your New Testament. Amen? Jesus says, "Therefore, whoever relaxes the law and one of the least of the commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven."

See, I highlighted the word therefore. It's another key word. "Therefore" is an important word in the Bible. "In light of…therefore, do this." Romans 1-11, a lot of doctrine. Romans 12:1, Therefore, in light of God's mercy, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God." Whoever relaxes one of these commands…

How were the Pharisees relaxing the commandments of God? Good question. I'll tell you. They were relaxing them because they stripped out the heart intent of the law. They would say, "You've got this law and all this other oral tradition." We talked about that in week one. They say, "If you just do this, you'll be okay."

In making God's law a checklist of things to do rather than an expression of a grateful heart, they have relaxed the law. We're going to spend the next several weeks on this. You're going to see right after this paragraph, Jesus is going to say, "You have heard it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit murder.'" "You have heard it was said of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.'"

Jesus is going to be talking about and showing examples of what it means that they relaxed the law. So come back next week. Suffice it to say, how do we relax the law here today? What does that look like to us? Well, I'll tell you. We relax the law… If I were to say to you, "Listen, if you don't read your Bible every day this next week, God's going to be really pissed at you," that's relaxing the law.

If I say to you, "I noticed you've not been here two of the last six weeks. I'm keeping track," and I put on you a burden that you need to do something, I'm relaxing the law. What does Jesus say about that? "That guy is going to be least in the kingdom of heaven," which is another way of saying you aren't getting in.

Should you read your Bible? Yes. It's God's Word. It'll help you. It gives you direction. You should absolutely read your God's Word, but not as some way to appease a grumpy deity. God's not mad at you. He wants you to know him. It's a relationship. God's Word is one of the primary mechanisms by which we get to know our Father. So read God's Word, but don't think that in reading it, he's going to love you more.

God has demonstrated his love for you already, Romans tells us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. That question has been answered. Once and for all on the cross. Does God love you? Yes. How do I know? He sent his Son to die on the cross for you, his Son who never did anything in violation of the scriptures. That question has been answered, but if you want to know God, he is giving you his book. So get into it.

He goes on to say, "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Now let me just tell you something. If you were a first-century Jew and you heard Jesus say that your righteousness needs to exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees or you won't get in… Man, the wind just left your sails. Why? Because the Pharisees, those were the professionals. They gave their whole lives to the law. It was all they did. They ate, slept, drank, dental flossed the law.

That's all they did. And you're telling me if I don't exceed that, I don't get in? Jesus says yes. Why? Because Jesus is not talking about the false righteousness of the Pharisees. The Pharisees, as you would read the rest of the gospel, they get railed off all the time, because their righteousness was one of false piousness. It wasn't a true righteousness, which is why in Luke 18 (I think Todd read this last week), Jesus told a parable.

It says he told this parable to some who trusted that they were righteous and treated others with contempt. Who do you think those some were? The Pharisees. It might be some of us in here today. Jesus says, "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even [this sorry piece of] tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get." And on and on.

Jesus says that's not righteousness. Did you know the Old Testament did not require the Jews to fast twice a week? It's not in there, but it was because of the Pharisees. See, Jesus is not saying you need to have more of what the Pharisees have. He's saying you need to have greater righteousness, righteousness of a different kind.

It's a different flavor of ice cream altogether. They're eating cherry ice cream. Nastiness. Jesus says, "No, no. This is Cookie Two Step." It's a righteousness of a heart. It's greater, not in quantity, but in quality. It's a righteousness that says the intent matters.

That parable I just read, he says, "I'm not an adulterer." Well, Jesus, we're going to learn in about two weeks, redefines… Actually I take that back. He doesn't redefine it. He properly defines what it means to be an adulterer. We learned that these Pharisees of the day had no idea what righteousness was. That's what he means when he says, "Your righteousness must exceed them."

If your righteousness doesn't exceed them, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven…never enter the kingdom of heaven…unless your righteousness is one of the heart. Unless you're poor in spirit, meek, a peacemaker. All of those things we talked about last week in the Beatitudes. It starts with a poverty in your spirit that says, "I'm not capable of keeping the law. I'm not capable of giving you a glass of water with entirely pure motives. There's always something in it for me. There's always a piece of, 'They're going to think better of me.'" No.

My righteousness exceeds it when it comes from my heart. God, what is the heart of what it means to not murder? It's all about anger. What does it mean to not commit adultery? It's about lust. It's about so much more than the Pharisees are giving it credit for. That's why he says your righteousness needs to exceed it.

We do see this term kingdom of heaven a lot. You see it three times here in this particular passage. Matthew is the only writer in the entire Bible who uses this phrase. There is a Trivial Pursuit question for you. He uses it 32 times. When he talks about the kingdom of heaven, there are a couple different ways we should think about it.

One is we should think about the kingdom of heaven is God's ultimate and complete sovereignty over his world. This is God's world. He created it. He's going to be the one to wrap it up someday. We also talk about, and this is the primary usage right now, God's rule and his reign in the life of a disciple. We come to embrace God's rule and his reign when we start by saying, "I am poor in spirit. I need you, Father, to help me be the kind of man you want me to be."

It also has with it this idea of God's future plan. When his will shall completely and perfectly be on earth as it is in heaven. That's the kingdom of heaven. Your entrance into the kingdom of heaven starts not by what you do, how much you fast, how much you tithe, not by your perfect attendance award, not by any of that nonsense… It starts by acknowledging, "God, your rule and your reign in my life is what I need. Apart from that, I have nothing to offer you."

God's kingdom of heaven is both now in us, and it's to come in its fullness. A kingdom of heaven person always has a reformed life, which is what we talked about in week one. If you know Jesus, if you say, "I'm a disciple," but there's no salt and there's no light, I want to encourage you that you might want to check your faith. Just because you show up in here, just because you go to Equipped Disciple, just because you come to Summit, just because you come to Shoreline, that does not make you a disciple.

That just makes you a guy who goes to church, Summit, Equipped Disciple. That's it. That's all it makes you. You want to be a kingdom person? You acknowledge your need for a Savior. Out of that, you begin to grow. The good news is you may have just come to know the kindness of God yesterday. You may be a day-one believer, and all you may have is a BIC lighter, just this little bitty flame, and God says, "Guess what? A BIC lighter provides light."

You may have been walking with Jesus for 50 years, and you may be a bonfire, but both of them are doing what God is calling them to do. I hope that if you're a day-one believer over the decades you walk with Jesus, you would turn from that little tiny flame into a roaring fire that consumes other people with the light of God.

You may be just like a little small snack pack of salt. You know, one of the kind you get from Chick-fil-A. You're like, "I'm a believer, but it's just this itty-bitty pack of salt." God says, "That's okay. Use your salt, little as it may be today, and I'll grow it." You may end up being as salty as the Dead Sea. That's all it is. It's salt.

But you have to start walking with Jesus. You have to raise your hands and say, "I can't do it." You need to get with other believers who can encourage you and remind you not to make God like you, because that's how we grow. Dive into community. Confess your sins to one another. Yeah, I know. Community is hard. I've been in community for 20 years here. Of course, it's hard.

It's not easy to be in community with me, either. I can be a jerk from time to time. Like every third day. That's how we grow. It's that sharpening. You want to be a bonfire? You want to be the Dead Sea kind of salt? Get around God's people. Get in God's Word. Equip yourself. Remind yourself you can't obey the Sermon of the Mount. You need Jesus every day.

The moment you put your foot on the ground out of your bed, "God, I will screw this day up by the time my coffee is done if you don't help me to be your man today in this world. This world needs salt and it needs light. That is what you saved me for. Help me to be your man today. Help me to be your woman today. Your husband, your mother, your child, your employer, or coworker." See what God does? So much more, but we're out of time. So, let's pray.

Father, what a gift. What a gift your Word is to our hearts. Thank you for once again reminding us of what you have saved us to be, to be salt and to be light. I pray, Father, for my own wicked, deceitful heart. Oh, I am prone to wander, the thoughts and the intentions that run across my brain every single day that need to be reformed and brought to you daily.

I pray for our body, that we would continually come before you and that you would cleanse us, you would make us more salty, and you would make our light shine brighter that others may see our good works and give glory to you.

I pray that this week, as we leverage our lives, as we are salt to this world, as we are light to the world, there might be this week people who come to know the kindness and the mercy of you and your son and they might be born again, they might enter into the kingdom of heaven for the first time, and you might be able to use them to transform this world. God, we have much work to do. We need you to do every bit of it. We know you will use us for your glory, for our good, and for the transformation of this world.

Father, I pray if there is anybody today who is not light, who is not salt, because they don't know you, would you quicken their heart today? Would you remind them that you love them and you're not a checklist God? You don't want them to do, do, do to earn salvation. You want them to come empty handed and from that, you will equip them to go do. Thank you for your Son who fulfilled the law in a way that we would never ever be able to fulfill. What a gift. What a gift. In Jesus' name, amen.