Salt and Light
February 28th, 1965 @ 7:30 PM
SALT AND LIGHT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-28-65 7:30 p.m.
On the radio, and I wish all of you who are listening on the radio were here, on the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled Salt and Light. And I struck a responsive chord in the musical division of our church when I put "light" along with the subject. I do not guess they have any songs about salt, never heard one, but it is just as biblical. And in your Bible, turn to the fifth chapter of Matthew, the fifth chapter of Matthew. Last Sunday night we read a few verses at the beginning of these beatitudes. Let’s just read all of them tonight.
Sixteen verses, the Gospel of Matthew, chapter five, verses 1 through 16. Everybody get his Bible. Share it with his neighbor. You on the radio, open the Book, and read it out loud with us through the sixteenth verse, now together:
And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain, and when He was set His disciples came unto Him:
And He opened His mouth, and taught them, saying,
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
And the passage of the text we have just read: "Ye are the salt of the earth, but if the salt have lost" its saltiness, not salty anymore, what is it good for? – – Nothing but to be used to make trails over which men can walk. "Ye are the light of the world," a city high on a mountain cannot be hid. "Nor do men light a candle, put it under a bushel; but on a lamp stand, and it giveth light to all in the house."
You shine. You are going to shine anyway. Shine in such a way, such a glorious triumphant way that people looking at you will say, "Isn’t it grand to be a Christian? Isn’t it grand?" Isn’t that what I’ve been preaching about? Isn’t that what Jesus says? "And the will glorify God in heaven." They don’t look at you and say, "I tell you, it is worse being a Christian than to have a serious illness. It has a terrible effect." When they see you, they say, "Glory to God." What a marvelous benediction from heaven.
All right let’s start now. "Ye are the salt of the earth, ye are the light of the world." Can you imagine the astonishment of these people, unlettered, unprofessional fishermen, when the Lord said to them, "Ye are the salt of the earth, and ye are the light of the world?" Now they knew what He meant when He spoke about salt. They were fishermen, and when they preserved their catch, they did it in salt. And the people in the country would know what that meant. For in their salty preservation of meat, they are able to eat bacon and pork all through the days of the year. But in order for salt to be effective, it must come in contact with the world. You can’t have salt over here in a jar and the meat over here on the table and the meat be preserved from corruption. The salt has to be applied and has to come in contact with the meat. And the Lord was saying that when He said, "Ye are the salt of the world."
Not inside these four walls must our greatest ministry be found, nor even in a monastery behind high impenetrable walls, but out there where the world is and the people are. The only thing to remember about the salt is this: if it is to be used for preservation, and for curing, and to keep things from corrupting, then there has to be a difference between the salt and what it is seeking to preserve. And that is very apparent to us. We are to be in the world but not of the world. We are to be connected with the world but different from it.
That is what our Lord prayed for in the high priestly prayer in the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John. The Lord said:
I pray not that Thou shouldest take these disciples out of the world,
but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
As I was sent into the world, so I send them.
And you find that same thought again in the fifth chapter of the 1 Corinthian letter when Paul wrote a letter over there to Corinth, and they misunderstood it. And he said:
Now I wrote you in a letter not to keep company with harlots, and covetous people, and extortioners, and idolaters; but I did not mean that you were never to associate with them for then must you needs go out of the world; you cannot live in this world and not be associated with people like that. But I have written to you that in the circle of the fellowship of God’s people, you are not to have drunkards, and extortioners, and idolaters, and covetous, and harlots, and all the rest.
[1 Corinthians 5:9]
There is to be a difference between us and the unregenerate, and the unbelieving, and the un-Christian, and the ungodly. But, but we are to be associated with them in the world if we’re ever going to reach them for Jesus. You can’t pull your skirts around you and say, "Now I’m too good for them, and I can’t have any contact with them." The only way we can reach them is to be kind to them and be friends with them. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a gambler to reach a gambler. You don’t have to be a drunkard to reach a drunkard. You don’t have to be a harlot to reach the harlot. You don’t have to be worldly to reach the worldly. You can still be Christian in the power of the Holy Spirit. You can still be a Christian and yet be nice and gracious and friendly to people who need the Lord.
Now if you ever become identified with the world, then the salt has lost its savor. It has lost its saltiness, and it can preserve nothing and save nothing. Isn’t that a strange thing? A chemist sometimes will say, "Now such a thing as that is impossible. You can’t lose the saltiness of salt. As long as there’s a piece of it, whether it’s dissolved or whether it’s amalgamated with something else, it’s still salt." Well, he’s talking about a certain kind of a salt. The salt that we use on our tables is one atom of sodium and one atom of chlorine. And they make a molecule of salt, NaCl, salt. But, there are other kinds of salt; Na3Cl3 will make salt. Na6Cl6 will make salt. Na9Cl9 will make salt; nine atoms of sodium, a metal, nine atoms of chlorine, a gas, will also make salt. And there are mountains of the stuff around the Dead Sea, and that kind of salt that Jesus knew and Jesus was talking about, if it is exposed to the sun, and exposed to the wind, and exposed to the rain, and exposed to the elements, and exposed to the earth, it loses its saltiness, and men use it to tap down on paths and roads, and they walk over it. Now that was the illustration He was saying about us. We are to be in the world and not of the world. We can be friends to the children of mammon. We can be sweet, and gracious, and kind, and fine, and lovable and at the same time not share in all of the things that the world indulges in.
May I point out to you about losing this saltiness? It is easy for a Christian to lose his savor, to lose his power of his witness and his testimony as a Christian in the world. One, you can lose it intellectually. I had two teenagers come to see me tonight. And they go to a certain high school. And in that high school are young people, teenagers, who go to other churches here in the city. And those churches don’t believe in the Bible. They believe that all of these stories in the Bible are moral parables, but they’re not true. They didn’t happen. And they believe that these stories of creation are just figments of somebody’s wild imagination. And so they came to me and said, "What about that? Are these things that are said in the Bible, are they true? Are they myths and fables and legends? Or are they true? And did God make us and this world?" So they say, "What of those people who don’t believe the Bible, and they don’t believe these things, are they saved and are they Christians?"
Well I have a very plain and simple answer to that – and by the way they were talking about some other Baptist churches here in this city, they’re not talking about some infidel congregation out there that denies the deity of Christ and calls itself broad and liberal – they’re talking about some Baptist churches. The teachers in the Baptist church and some of the preachers in the Baptist church don’t believe the Bible. And they don’t believe in the miracles. And they don’t believe in the supernatural, and they don’t believe in the creation, and they don’t believe in what this Word says. So these young people come to me and they ask me, "What about that? What about that?"
I have as I said some very plain and simple answers about it. First of all, first of all there never has yet been one spade turned over by any archaeologist that has ever denied anything ever said in the Bible, nothing at all! But there have been ten thousand things that these so called critics have said about the Bible, pointing out its so-called errors, and the spade of the archaeologist, without exception, has called them liars! They have never been right; not one time, not one time! And the Bible has never been wrong; not one time, not one time!
Then those young people say, "Well, well, well now they say to me that they have proved that we came from a tadpole and a monkey and an ape! They have proved that!"
And I said to those young people, "That’s a downright falsehood! They haven’t even started to begin to prove such a lie as that. It’s hard to prove a lie."
And those young people said to me, "But pastor, my teacher said there that LIFE magazine, about a month ago, proved conclusively that the Bible is wrong!"
I said, "My soul, can you imagine anybody that would base his soul salvation on LIFE magazine?"
Every time I pick it up, I want to fumigate my hands or wash out my mouth. There are more things wrong with that magazine than any one thing I’ve ever looked at in this world, unless it be one of those unspeakable sex things that you find on the newsstands. Why brother, the answer to those questions is as simple as night and day. The Word of God bears testimony to its truth for thousands and thousands of years. And Jesus believed the Holy Scriptures; syllable by syllable, word by word, line by line, sentence by sentence.
Then I had another observation to make. Wherever you see that intellectual doubt creep into the minds of the people, into the minds of the minister, and into the congregation of the church, it is not long until that church will lose its power to witness to the saving grace of God and will finally wash out and disintegrate and disappear from the face of the earth. It can’t reproduce itself. Any church that now lives anywhere you see it, has lived because somebody in the past, the forefathers have believed the Word of God and preached the unsearchable riches of Christ. And that church lives because somebody in the past has believed that. And if they don’t believe it, their children will finally forsake it, and the church will die! Just go around with me into these vast derelictions washed on the shores of modern American history. And the churches are dead, and the people are gone, and the pews are empty, and the services are hardly held together by a little band that continues to worship in that empty mausoleum.
You can lose your salt intellectually, intellectually. When you get to the place in your smartness, and in your erudition, and in your human learnedness, where you know more than God and you find errors on every page of the Bible, you have lost the power of your testimony to the saving grace of Jesus and the presence of God in the world.
I didn’t mean to say all that; I have got to go on, I have got to preach on light. After all this singing tonight, if I don’t get to light, you’ll think I have misled all of these saints here who sing in the choir. How can you lose your saltness? You can lose it intellectually. You can lose it socially. You can pay more attention and be more sensitive to what that little band of friends around you think of you than what God thinks of you. And it’s easy to fall into that lost. Not what God thinks, but what they think. Oh, what a mistake. And you can lose your devotion to God by measuring your life according to their standards and what they expect of you.
And then third, you can lose the saltness of your life by the enmeshing of your days in temporalities; don’t have time to read the Bible, don’t have time to pray, don’t have time to come to prayer meeting, don’t have time to come to the evening service, don’t have time to love God, don’t have time to visit, don’t have time for the Lord. And you can lose your saltness in just the pressure of things. Oh, you still mouth on in the chivalries of the faith, but your heart’s not in it. You still confess the great doctrines of the church but there’s no zeal or fire in it! And you can say by rote all the nomenclature. You can pronounce all the words of the holiness and the faithfulness of the days past witnessed by the people of God, but the fervor has gone out of your soul. You have a clear understanding, clear as a frosty night and your heart as cold. You can lose your saltiness, and when you do, it’s good for nothing. The faith is gone, the reality is gone, the zeal is gone, the love is gone. Like the Lord said to the church at Ephesus, "You have lost your first love; turn," said the Lord, "and repent, and do the first works" [Revelation 2:4, 5].
Salt; only way this earth is preserved is in you, in you, the reason the end of time is not – the reason all these buildings are still standing, the reason God doesn’t judge fire and brimstone upon this earth – is because of you. You are the salt of the earth.
Now hurriedly, "Ye are the light of the world," and what an astonishing thing. I guess they were amazed at it when the Lord said that to them. "You, you fisherman, and you tax collectors, and you laborers and workers, you are the light of the world." I guess they were astonished at it. We’re not. We just don’t believe it. It just never occurs to us to believe that – – that God’s people are the light of the world. For to us, we have unconsciously become persuaded that reason is the light of the world; enlightened self-interest is the light of the world, science is the light of the world, ingenuity and human inventiveness is the light of the world, but not God’s people. They are not the light of the world. But the Lord said so, "Ye are the light of the world."
Do you know Jesus takes it for granted that the world is in darkness, and He didn’t accept any part of it? The intellectual world is in darkness. The social world is in darkness. The cultural world is in darkness. The political world is in darkness. The military world is in darkness. "The whole world lieth in darkness," says the Holy Scriptures; and the light that shines into the darkness are God’s people who witness to His saving grace: "Ye are the light of the world."
Then He illustrated it. You can’t help but shining. You’re going to shine in one way or another because you’re a Christian, and it’s going to be known that you’ve espoused the faith of the Lord. You belong to the church, you’ve been baptized, and your family’s being raised in the church, and you are a part of the household of the faith, and it can’t help but be seen. Then He illustrated it:
A city on a high mountain, you don’t hide it; you can’t,
it’s up there where everybody can look at it.
And people don’t light a lamp and put it underneath a bushel;
you never saw that in your life unless they wanted to put it out, cover it over.
But when you light a lamp, it’s on a lampstand.
And that’s the way you are, said the Lord Jesus.
Now, in the King James Version in 16 and 11, that word "let" there was imperative. But it’s changed to us today to mean "allow." Now let me read it like it is in the Greek; the Greek is an imperative. The Greek word for "shine" is lampo – lampo – your word "lamp" comes from it. And this is an imperative, lampsota – lampsota – shine your light in such a way that when people see you, they glorify God. Now He’s [not] talking about some little old flickering, feeble, compromised light – that doesn’t glorify God – but shine with all your might, shine! Shine, shine, best you know how, shine! And I’m going to preach about that, "Best You Know How".
I didn’t like his song; he didn’t sing the thing right. He never had the right tune to it – I don’t know where he got that tune, but it was abominable – we ought to sing the tune right.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine
Now that’s the tune!
Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine
Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine
Satan wants to blow it out, I’m gonna let it shine
Satan wants to blow it out, I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, Let it shine
["This Little Light of Mine"; Harry Dixon Loes]
Now next Sunday night you do better, and sing it like it ought to be.
Shine, shine said our Lord. Isn’t that an amazing thing about us? Well, I can see how the Lord can be the light of the world. I could even see how those apostles could be the light of the world. I can see how the great martyrs and witnesses who laid down their lives for the faith could be the light of the world. I can see how our marvelous missionaries like Livingston in darkest Africa, or Moffett in South Africa, or Yates over there in China, or Carey in India, I can see how they would be the light of the world. But we – you and I – we are the light of the world, the Lord said so. And that’s my closing part of this sermon tonight.
We are the light of the world. For you see when you stand under the starry sky, God’s blue chalice above us, Paul noticed, and he said in the Book, not all those stars have the same glory, But there’s a glory of one star, and the glory of another star, and one star differeth from another star in glory. Do you ever look at them and wonder? How is it God flung them into space and hung them upon nothing? And why do they burn? A star is a sun like our sun. How do they burn and never waste? Are they the lamps on God’s porch? Are they the streetlights of the highway of holiness that leads to glory?
Those stars that shine for God, they’re different. And our witnessing for Jesus is different. We’re not all alike. God made everyone of us different; our abilities different, our talents different, our affinities different, our lives are different, our predilections are different, our professions are different, everything about us is different, no two of us is alike. And we are to be ourselves, shining for Jesus wherever and however the Lord hath cast our lot and created us and set us for His purposes in this earth.
Some clocks you can look at and you have to look at them to see the time. Some clocks strike. They can tell you the time in the dark. But both of them are needed. Both of them are. Walking down the streets here in Dallas, there’s that big Mercantile Bank clock. I look at that thing every day of my life, but I have to look at it. We have a clock in our dining room, one of those old pendulum things; and our daughter came to me one time and said, "Will you take that thing out of this house? It keeps me awake all night long chiming, chiming, chiming." I said, "Now dear child, you just get used to it because that’s what a house ought to have is a clock that chimes." Did you know that? You ought to have one in your house; one that strikes – – makes a house feel like home, different kinds of clocks.
The ocean has a voice. You never heard the sun. The forest murmurs in the breeze. You never heard a constellation. You know there are sermons preached by the preacher loud and furious; there are sweet wonderful sermons preached by God’s saints who never say a word in public. They just shine. They just preach. They just witness for Jesus. Isn’t that a wonderful thing? Isn’t that a glorious thing? O, but you say, "I want the earthquake! I want to see the lightening flash!" The quietness of a sunbeam fall on a baby’s cheek, never awaken the precious little infant. Yet were it not for that light, the oceans would turn to solid ice. This whole earth would be bathed in impenetrable darkness and be plunged into eternal death! And it is saved just by the quiet shining of the light – – don’t make any noise; come in a windowpane – you never know it’s there.
That’s the people of God. Oh, and how the Lord needs us. I’m not saying He doesn’t need the evangelists. I’m not saying He doesn’t need the thundering of the preacher. I’m not saying He doesn’t need the flash of the lightning and the earthquake that shakes the whole earth! But I am saying that all of God’s people who are shining for Jesus, maybe in quiet humble ways, they have a part for God.
Back yonder some time ago, I went on a big plane across this continent. It was a clear night, and all, all, all, clear across the continent, I saw lights that flashed around, lamps. And he followed those lights all the way across the continent. And upon a time I went to the pilot, and he had a "beep, beep", he had a beam; and he was following a beam. And then today, those pilots, whether they see lights or not, they follow a compass that shapes itself on those panels. And how humble – – what if one of those lights said, "You know, I’m not going to shine?" A little light, "I’m not going to shine." Or what if one of those little ether waves were to say, "I’m not going to bear this beep-beep." Or what if that compass were to say, "I’m tired, I’m going to quit?" It’s those little humble ministries that make possible these marvelous miracles of aviation and transportation that we have today.
Now I must close. Did you know one of the most famous illustrations ever used by a preacher was told by Dwight L. Moody? And when he got through telling it, P.P Bliss wrote a song. And we’ve been singing that song for all the times since. The story that Moody told was this, and it was an actual happening on Lake Erie:
The storm beat and the ship was tossed on the sea. And the captain said to the pilot, "Make way to the shore. Make way to the port."
And in the storm of the sea, they finally caught sight of the lighthouse. And they made their way toward the port. But as you know, when you have ever come into a port, along the edge of the waters marking the channel are the lower lights. And somebody, seeing the great lighthouse flashing a glorious light set there for the poor mariner – but somebody thought these little lights were not necessary and forgot to turn them on – and when the pilot came to the entrance to the port, there were no lights to guide him safely inside.
And the pilot said to the captain, he said, "Sir, we have no other choice but to go back out to the sea."
And the captain said, "For us to go out back into the sea is to perish for certain. Do the best you can. See if you can find your way into the harbor."
And of course the story ended in a great tragedy. As the pilot tried to feel his way without those lower lights into the harbor, he ran aground. And the storm and the waves beat the ship to pieces, and all the lives were lost because the lower lights were not burning.
And P.P. Bliss heard Dwight L. Moody tell that story and wrote a song. The great lighthouse is God our Savior shining up there forever. But if the mariner is to be saved and if the ship is to be brought home into port, the lower lights must also be burning. You know the song:
Brightly beams our Father’s mercy,
From His lighthouse evermore
But He gives to us the keeping
Of the lights along the shore
Trim your feeble lamp my brother,
Some poor sailor tempest tossed
Trying now to make the harbor
In the darkness may be lost
And the chorus:
Let the lower lights be burning,
Send a gleam across the wave
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman,
You may rescue, you may save!
["Let the Lower Lights Keep Burning"; P.P. Bliss]
Shine, shine, shine, wherever you are, however, God bless you as you shine for Jesus. Oh, how precious is our Savior in giving us such a sweet part in the gospel message of the Son of God – – He and we; Jesus and His disciples. O bless His name, and bless us as we work for Him and worship before Him and adore His name. And bless you tonight as you come to that saving faith in Him that keeps us now and forever.
And while we sing this hymn of appeal, in the balcony round, you, somebody you, on this lower floor, this throng and press of people here tonight, into that aisle and down to the front, "Preacher, I give you my hand, I’ve given my heart to God. Here I come."
A couple of you, coming into the fellowship of the church; a family you, or just one somebody you, come. Make it tonight. And a thousand times welcome in the name of the Lord, welcome, welcome. Do it, do it now. Do it now. Make up your mind now. Decide in your heart now, and when we stand up to sing, you stand up and walk into that aisle or down one of these stairwells and come, come. Make it now, make it tonight, while we stand and while we sing.
SALT AND LIGHT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. They knew what Jesus meant when He spoke about salt
1. Salt used everywhere to save and preserve food
B. To be effective the salt has to come in contact with the meat
1. We are to be connected to the world, but different from it (John 17:15, 18, 1 Corinthians 5:9-11)
2. There is to be a difference between us and the unregenerate, ungodly
II. Losing savor – losing the power of your witness
A. Lost intellectually
1. Doubting the truth of the Bible
2. Intellectual doubt will cause the disintegration of the church
B. Lost socially
C. Lost temporally
1. Engrossed in the things of life; losing zeal for things of God (Revelation 2:4-5)
A. We are persuaded that reason, science, ingenuity the light of the world
B. Jesus said, "Ye are the light of the world."
C. The world is darkness
D. We are commanded to shine (Matthew 5:13-14)
1. We are like the stars
2. Each one of us shines differently; but all are needed
E. Song, "Let the Lower Lights Keep Burning"