Monday, February 06, 2023

The Powerful Word of God

[Below, you'll find live stream videos of both Sunday worship services from Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio, and the text of the message prepared for the services. Have a good week! PS: I only mentioned Billy Frank during the sermon at the 11:00 AM modern service.]

Matthew 5:13-20

We Christians may sometimes grow desensitized to an important truth. It;s this. The God we know in Jesus Christ always speaks a powerful Word.

How powerful?

When God spoke over ancient chaos, saying things like, “Let there be light,” He brought all the physical worlds we have ever seen or will ever see into being.

When God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, speaks over the waters of Holy Baptism, He makes us part of His new creation.

God’s Word has the power to create and transform!

At Jesus’ transfiguration, God the Father said to Peter, James, and John--and us--”This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” (Matthew 17:5) The Father says this because His Word has the power to change our whole eternity. “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

God says of His Word through the prophet Isaiah, that it “will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

And Hebrews tells us that God’s Word is an alive and active two-edged sword, bringing both God’s Law that condemns our sinful nature and sinful actions and the Gospel Word about the crucified and risen Jesus that creates faith and saves all who believe!

In Matthew 5:13-16, the first four verses of today’s gospel lesson, Jesus, the Word of God, God the Son, makes two powerful declarative statements. He tells us:

“You are the salt of the earth” and
“You are the light of the world.” 

In making these declarations, Jesus is not saying that we should be salt and light, or we have to be salt and light, or we need to become salt and light.

If, by the power of God’s Holy Spirit-powered Word given to us in the Scriptures and in Baptism and Communion, we can say, “We believe in God the Father...We believe in God the Son...We believe in God the Holy Spirit,” then we are salt and light.

Even on those days when our faith seems weak.

Even on those days when we wonder where God is and whether He cares.

Even when we don’t feel very Christian.

God’s Word has a power and an authority that isn’t dependent on our feelings, moods, thoughts, or actions.

God’s Word always accomplishes what God desires, and always achieves the purpose for which He sends it.

And His Word says that all disciples of Jesus are salt and light.

But what does it mean to be salt and light? Let’s take these descriptions of you and me one by one.

Take a look at verse 13. Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth. 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 underfoot.”

From ancient times, the Jewish rabbis have associated salt with wisdom. True wisdom, according to Proverbs 2:6, always comes from God.

The ultimate wisdom that God reveals to a human race bent on “being like God” sounds foolish--insane--to the world. This wisdom says that life, everlasting life, as we are meant to live it, begins with a cross and  culminates in eternal life for those who turn from sin and believe in Jesus

As the apostle Paul says elsewhere: “...the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

But Jesus assures us today that you and I are, because of Christ’s presence in and with those who believe in Him, the wisdom of God for a world gone foolish, born foolish, from sin and death. Jesus makes His people the salt of the earth: God’s wisdom staring the world in the face.

But what if salt loses its saltiness? Of course, sodium chloride, salt, can’t lose its salty quality. Salt only loses its salty influence if it becomes diluted

Our saltiness as disciples is diluted, diminished, when we allow our faith in Christ to be diluted

When Christians say things like, “The Bible is good, but I don’t think God knew as much back then as we do now,” they’re trading in God’s wisdom for human wisdom, trading in Jesus for the world. 

When we hear Christians utter blasphemies like, “I think Jesus is a Republican” or “I think Jesus is a Democrat,” their saltiness is diluted and they’re at risk of, as Jesus says, “no longer [being] good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

Whenever Christians try to add their finite, imperfect, short-sighted “wisdom” to God’s wisdom, we lose our saltiness. They dilute the power of their witness for Jesus to others in our world. 

In fact, when Jesus says in our translation, “loses it saltiness,” the word it translates in the Greek in which Matthew wrote--μωρανθῇ, from which we get the word moron--literally means become foolish. We lose our saltiness–we become morons–when we foolishly dilute the truth of the Gospel and of the Word of the Bible.

We avoid becoming foolish by rooting our lives and our witness in the Word of God.

Jesus makes us salt of the earth so that we have life with God that never ends through faith in Jesus, for sure. But He also makes us salt of the earth so that we can season the whole world with the truth of the Gospel, the ultimate wisdom of God.

Jesus carries this theme on in His next declarative Word for believers. Verse 14: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 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 others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Wait a minute, we might think, isn’t Jesus supposed to be the “light of the world”? Yes, Jesus is “the true light that gives light to everyone” (John 1:9).

To speak of Jesus as the light of the world is to speak of the God of  blazing perfection, Who gives illumination and direction to those who follow Him, Who burns away the sin and impurities that can mar our relationships with God and others.

This Light, Jesus, is living in disciples of Jesus, guiding us, making us new, warming us in the glow of God’s tender love for us. In the Light of Jesus, His Word, “we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path,” a prayer says in the Psalms. (Psalm 119:105)

Jesus tells us today that we need to keep the fires of His light stoked within us by remaining connected to Him and His Church. There’s a reason for that!

At the end of today’s gospel lesson, Jesus says something that would be disturbing if He hadn’t already declared us to be His salt and light. “For I tell you,” He says, “that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  

As Christ's Word enables you to believe in Him, your righteousness does exceed that of the Pharisees and all the other fussy, self-righteous, chest-thumping, judgmental, holier than thou religionists you can name


By the power of His Word, God has given you faith in Jesus and declared you to be His salt of the earth and His light in the world.

In daily repentance and renewal, in regular worship with God’s people, and regular attention to His Word, You are empowered to turn again and again back to the One true God we know in Jesus Christ lives in you. 

The tastelessness of sin and death is gone. So is the darkness of life without God or its ability to make you afraid of sin, death, or the devil.

You have been justified by God’s grace through faith in Christ, that is, you have been made righteous and worthy of life with God, now and forever, because you are covered by the perfect, sinless, righteousness of Jesus.

That’s what it means to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

That’s who you already are by faith in Christ.

As you turn to Him daily in repentance and faith, that’s who you always will be.

That is the powerful Word Jesus speaks to you today and you can believe it.