“Glorifying God as Salt & Light” (Matthew 5:13-16 sermon)

“(Victor) Frankl was a prominent Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist who lived in Vienna, Austria. In 1942, he and his wife and parents were arrested and transported to a Nazi concentration camp. At the end of the war three years later, Frankl was set free, though his wife and parents did not survive.” After this experience, Frank wrote a book he called: Man’s Search For Meaning. “In sharing his experiences in a Nazi death camp, Frankl concluded that the difference between those who lived and those who died came down to one thing — meaning. The reason is he was convinced we are driven, above all else, to understand our purpose in life.  (Richard E. Simmons III, Reflections on the Existence of God, p. 87-88)

If having meaning or a. purpose is life is as important a Victor Frankl says it is, do you know what YOUR purpose for being here on earth is? The good thing is, you don’t have to guess; Jesus TELLS us what it is in our passage for today. 

The first thing we need to remember is the context here. Jesus just gave His disciples the Beatitudes, and now He shows us what our purpose IS here on earth as His disciples who are becoming like Him:

I.  Our Purpose : to glorify God

Jesus says in :16, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, AND GLORIFY YOUR FATHER WHO IS IN HEAVEN.” He says our purpose here on earth is to glorify God.  

It is a HUGE thing to KNOW your purpose here on earth. See, the PURPOSE you think you have in mind for anything you do, makes a HUGE difference in how you approach it, right?

— For example, if you go to college, the PURPOSE you have in mind for why you are going to college will have a dramatic impact on what you do and how you act there, right? I mean, if you think your purpose in going to college is to party and have a good time, you are going to act one way, right? Or if you think your purpose for being there is to get a degree and get the best course for your career, you will live and act an entirely different way! But the point is, the purpose for which you think you are there, has a dramatic impact on how you act, and what you do, while you are there — I think we can all agree on that.

— And it’s the same when you go to work too. Why you think you are there has a big impact on what you do there. If you think you’re there to meet people and have fun; you’ll conduct yourself at work one way. But if you think you are there to make money, you will act an entirely different way. Or if you think you’re there to find your ultimate meaning through that job, and to “climb the corporate ladder to success,” you’ll act another way entirely.

So again we see — the PURPOSE for which you think you are somewhere, will have a DRAMATIC impact on the way you live, and how you conduct yourself where you are.  And this applies to virtually anything we do.

SO HOW MUCH MORE SO, THEN, WITH LIFE AS A WHOLE?!  What is life about?  WHY ARE YOU HERE?  See, the answer you give to that question will DRAMATICALLY impact the way you think, the way you live, the way you act, and the way you do everything you do here on earth. “What are you here for?” That is not just an insignificant, theoretical question. It will impact and direct everything you do in your whole life.

SO … what IS the answer to that question? Jesus gives it to us here in Matthew: “glorify your Father who is in heaven.” This is what every one of us here on earth for, to glorify God. 

This is what EVERYTHING is here on earth for: is to glorify God:

— why is the sun there? It is there to give us light and health, and grow crops, and cause us to thank and glorify God for its existence. It is there to glorify God.

— why are the stars there? Billions upon billions of galaxies; I saw where one man said, “I can’t believe in God, because there are too many stars, and I can’t see what the purpose for them all is. It must just be by accident.” Are you kidding me? The Bible says in Genesis that “God made the great lights” — and Job tells us that when God “turned the lights on” of a billion billion galaxies, the angels of God shouted for joy!!  All those stars exist for the glory of God; they testify to His immensity, and His glory; if the universe is so immense, how much more the God who spoke them into being?  The stars exists for the glory of God.

— Think about the intricacy and beauty of a flower: what does it exist for? Everything about it points to the intelligence and beauty and creativity of God. The flowers exist for the glory of God.

And on and on … so it is with every created thing — they all exist for the glory of God — INCLUDING US. What are we here for? Why do we exist? Very simply put, we exist for the glory of God. That is exactly what Jesus tells us here, and what God’s word tells us all through scripture:

— Jesus says here in :16 that we are to let our light shine SO THAT we may “glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  As I have pointed out many times before, when you see “SO THAT” in the Bible, that is a PURPOSE CLAUSE. It points out the PURPOSE of something. What is our purpose? Jesus says: “SO THAT” — there is the purpose — “SO THAT they may see your good works and (what?) GLORIFY YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN.” THAT is our purpose:  just like the sun and the stars and the flowers and every other created thing, you and I exist for the purpose of glorifying God.

The Bible makes that clear throughout: 

— I Corinthians 6:20 says we are to glorify God with our body.

— II Corinthians 9:13 that we are to glorify God by our obedience

— I Peter 2:12 says we are to glorify God by our behavior

— I Peter 4:16 says we are to glorify God even in our suffering!  

— Then I Corinthians 10:31 says: ”Whether then you eat or drink or WHATEVER you do, do all to the glory of God.” 

The Bible tells us that EVERYTHING we do — “whatever” — is to glorify God!  We are going to see in a few minutes that that word “whatever” is really important, because it tells us that there is nothing in our lives which is insignificant, and by which we are not to glorify God. Everything we do is for God’s glory. As a Christian, you don’t have to go around aimlessly, like a lot of people do, asking “What am I here for; what is the purpose of my life?” No, if you are a Christian, you KNOW what the purpose of your life is: you are here on earth to glorify God.  

There is a great statement that I think every one of us would profit by being acquainted with, and memorizing. It is not scripture, but it is “scriptur-AL” — that is, it is based on scripture, and to me it is one of the most helpful statements there is — and it deals with just what we are talking about here: our purpose for existence.

This statement is from the Westminster Shorter Catechism, written by the Puritans back in 1647. As you may know, a “catechism” is a series of questions and answers that are memorized to help people learn truths — in many denominations they are used to teach children and new converts when they are saved. And the very first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, is this:

Question #1: “What is the chief end of man?”

Answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”

That is a marvelous statement. We should all learn it. What are we here for? What is our purpose? When we know our purpose, it will help direct everything we do. And so what is our chief purpose? What are we here for?  “To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” 

See, knowing this really clarifies things for us. It helps us to know what we are here in life for:

— we are NOT here to just “have fun”

— we are NOT here just to make money and accumulate possessions

— we are not here to “find the right person to make us happy”

— we are not here to “make a name for ourselves

— we are not even here to “follow our heart” or all kinds of other things … We are here, the Bible says, to glorify God. God created us, just like He created everything else, to point people to Him, and glorify Him — (and by the way, we also get to “enjoy Him forever” which we have talked about before and is another whole, amazing thing!)

But this is what we exist for: to glorify God; to point people to Him. And to enjoy Him. See, this explains a lot of things for us. AND it helps a lot of us understand WHY we feel like we are “missing it,” and going the wrong direction with our lives — it’s because we ARE! We haven’t realized our purpose, so we make all kinds of bad decisions and do all kinds of wrong things, because we haven’t realized our purpose: “to glorify God — (and enjoy Him forever!)

AND: the same thing is true not only for our individual lives, but also for our CHURCH. What is First Baptist Church of Angleton here for? 

People might have all kinds of ideas:

— we are here to give people some social involvement

— we are here to help give cohesiveness to our society

— we are here to help people

— we are here to support the police and the community leaders

— we are to have a place where we are comfortable

— we are to keep the “Baptist” name and theology going

(And there’s probably “some” truth in several of those ….)

But our REAL overall purpose as a church is the same as it is for us as individuals: We are here to glorify God. This church does not exist for our own comfort and pleasure. We are here as a church body to glorify God and point people to Him, through everything we do:

— Our worship is to point people to God. We’re singing about HIM; pointing people to Him. (In staff meeting every week we share from our quiet times, and Kyle shared Monday how he read in I Corinthians 14 where it says that people should walk into our assembly of worship and say “God is truly among you”! Our worship is to point people to God. We aren’t here to point people to Kyle; we aren’t here to point people to our musicians; we are not here to point people to the choir,  or to our congregation. If you are here as a guest today, we are here in our worship to point you to GOD! If we do anything less than that, we have failed. We EXIST as a church to glorify GOD in our worship. 

     And that is to be true in everything we do as a church; we exist to glorify God:

  • When we share His word in Bible Studies & sermons we are pointing people to God through His word 
  • When we witness, we are pointing people to Him with our words
  • When we care for people, we are pointing them to Him by our love
  • Through our outreach and ministries — like we are doing this month with our letters, and our prayer walking, and our BBQ dinner — our ultimate goal in all these things is to point these neighborhoods to God! NOT just to “First Baptist Church,” but to GOD. This is what we exist for. This is what we are here for. To glorify God by pointing people to Him.

When you know what you’re here for, It gives you SO much direction for what you should do: for your own life, and for our church. What are we here for? To “glorify God.” “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” 

Now that’s a lot right there — but let’s look for just a minute at how Jesus tells us we can specifically glorify God in two ways: by being both “salt” and “light” in the world around us.  

II. Our Means of Glorifying God as: SALT & LIGHT

Jesus says here that as His disciples, we are are “the salt of the earth,” and “the light of the world” and that is how we are to glorify Him. Now, we don’t literally turning into salt & light, right, so He is speaking symbolically. So what does it represent when He says we are “salt” and “light”? 


People suggest a number of different things about what Jesus meant by “salt” here, but Chuck Quarles of our Southeastern Baptist Seminary points out that salt was used in at least 11 different ways in Jesus’ time. It preserved, it was used for flavor. He quotes Diogenes Laertius, an ancient writer, who advised placing salt on a table in one’s home “to remind us of what is right; for salt preserves whatever it finds, and it arises from the purest of sources.”

The bottom line is, in ANY of the ways in which salt is used, it has a beneficial effect on whatever it comes in contact with. So that makes sense for us as Jesus’ followers: our lives should have a good effect on whatever we come in contact with: the people we meet; the society we live in. Our world should be better because we are here.

We can impact our world for the better in all kinds of ways. Cecil Booth shared with us last week about the emergency information we can get from the city of Angleton. He shared that with us because he is a City Councilman, which to me, is an important Christian responsibility. Cecil is not just sitting back, criticizing whatever’s going on in our world (which is so easy to do!). He’s making an impact; he’s saying, I’m going to be involved; I’m going to make a positive difference in our community. And you should hear when he prays in deacons meeting for our church, and our community. He has a real heart for God and for people. Cecil is being “salt” in the earth, making it better, just like Jesus said. We need Christian people in political offices like that don’t we? If God’s people don’t run for office, who will? Like Edmund Burke said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Leave it to the world and they’ll take over. We need Christian people to be“salt” in our community like Cecil and many others are.

But it’s not just politics, it’s the impact of all of our personal lives, one at a time, on our community as we live out the Christian life; living holy lives; caring for people; blessing our community — being “the salt of the earth” like Jesus said. 

This is part of what we are doing as we prayer walk our entire community this month of March: we are being “salt;” we are praying for our community; we’re praying against the work of Satan who wants to “steal and kill and destroy” our town and its people, and instead, we are blessing it through our prayers. We’re praying for marriages that Satan wants to destroy; we’re praying for the children he wants to corrupt; we’re praying for crime to be restrained; we’re praying for people to be saved, and for lives to be changed; and for folks to come to church — to First Baptist Church, and to ALL of the gospel churches in town. As we go out, we are carrying God’s presence with us, and we are praying God’s power over our entire community. We are being SALT like Jesus said, positively impacting our world through our presence! Let’s “salt down” our whole community this month as we pray — “Every Street/Every Home”! 


 Secondly Jesus said we can glorify God by being “light.” He said “You are the light of the world.” Jesus actually said later in John, “I am the light of the world,” but here He tells us as His disciples, “YOU are the light of the world.” Jesus is the true light, but as we become like Him like we saw in the Beatitudes, people will see His light in us. So He says, now YOU are the light of the world. “Light” helps others to see God’s truth. Followers of Jesus are to be “lights,” shining God’s truth wherever we are.

God’s truth is found in His word. So we need to be sharing God’s word with people: in our church, in Bible studies, and in opportunities that God gives us to share personally. Every time we open our mouths to share the word of God, His “light” going out into our world. And of course the most important “light” we have to share is the message of the gospel: that Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, and He will save whoever will repent of their sins and call on Him. (Maybe God’s brought YOU here today to hear that message, and give your life to Jesus!)  

So Jesus has given us the life purpose of glorifying Him, by blessing the community in which we live, both with our LIVES as salt, and with our WORDS, as light. That’s a purpose worth living for — and it’s a big responsibility — and sadly, too often we don’t live up to it, which is what Jesus addresses next:

III. OUR FAILURE to glorify God as salt and light. 

Jesus warned us here that there are at least two ways that we can fall short of our purpose as salt & light:

— First, He said our salt can lose its savor;

— And second, we can put our light under a basket.

A. We can fail by “hiding our light.”

Jesus said, no one puts a light under a basket, you put it up on a lamp stand, so people can see it. That is how WE are supposed to be as His people. We are to purposefully let our light shine in this world: to share His word, and tell people about Him. But sadly, too many of God’s people “hide their light”:

— when we go week after week and never share a witness for Christ with anyone, we are putting our light under a basket. 

— when surveys show that over 90% of professed Christians have never led anyone to faith in Christ; we are putting our light under a basket.

Listen, the world is coming “out of the closet” aren’t they? They’re shining their “light,” if you want to call it that. I saw recently where another celebrity came “out of the closet” as they call it, they other day. These people are saying things like: “I’ve been ‘in the closet’ too long; I’m ‘coming out.’ I’m not keeping quiet any longer about what I believe.”

But for some reason, over the past several years, many of us as Christians have gone INTO the closet, and we’ve been hiding what we’re supposed be sharing about God’s light with the world. I’m not talking about standing up for the “light” of the Republican Party, or conservative economic policy. I’m talking about the light of JESUS. I’m talking about the light of the GOSPEL: that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins. It is time for us as followers of Jesus to COME OUT of the closet and let our light shine! Stop hiding the light of the gospel under a basket! 

B. We can also fail by “letting our salt lose its savor.”

As “salt,” we should benefit those around us. But Jesus said we can fail if our “salt” “loses its savor” — that is, if we fail to be the godly influence He’s called us to be. And sadly, this happens way too often doesn’t it? We ALL know someone who has turned away from the Lord and from His church, by someone who claimed to be a Christian, but whose life didn’t back it up. Their “salt lost it’s savor.” 

Christian people, we have to remember that our purpose here on earth is to glorify God, NOT just to do whatever we feel like doing. And we have to remember that whatever we choose to do always impacts other people. The old saying is: “No man is an island.” What you do impacts others: your family, your kids, your neighbors, your work associates; whoever is watching. If you claim to be a Christian, you are representing the Lord in this world, and what you either influences people for or against Him.  

Lillian Parks Leighton worked as a maid at the White House for many years, and afterwards she wrote a delightful book about it. In it she tells how during World War I her brother Emmett ran off and joined the army. He wasn’t old enough, but he sneaked in without his mother’s permission, because he was big for his age and he told them he was 18. When he came home that night in full uniform, Lillian said at first, her mother turned pale — but then she looked at Emmett and said:  “Don’t ask me to get you out, and never disgrace that uniform.” (P. 53)

That’s a big deal, isn’t it — not to disgrace the uniform of the United States of America! But as Christians, we need to realize we are not merely representing our nation when we go out into the world, we are representing the Lord Jesus Christ. If you claim to be a Christian, you are in essence “wearing His uniform”!  And here’s the thing that many of us don’t realize as well as we should: IF YOU ARE A FOLLOWER OF JESUS CHRIST, YOU ARE ALWAYS WEARING HIS UNIFORM! You are not just “in uniform” when you are sitting here in church; or on a mission trip; or when you happen to be wearing a church tee-shirt; you are “in uniform” all the time, wherever you are — and people know it — especially in a town like Angleton. If you’re living one way in church and another way out in the world, people will know it, and it will turn them away from the Jesus you say you follow. 

You may think you’re not “in uniform” when you’re at Wal-Mart or getting a meal at the restaurant, but you are! I was SO dismayed not long ago to see on Facebook, a server at a restaurant talk about what poor tippers the Christians who come in after church are. And then DOZENS of servers from other restaurants responded to that post, saying, “YES, that is exactly how it is here; our restaurant HATES to see the Christians come in, because we know they are going to treat us like dirt, and they aren’t going to tip well.”

FOLKS THIS OUGHT TO CAUSE US TO FALL ON OUR FACES BEFORE GOD AND REPENT! THAT is the reputation we have in the world? That is how we’re representing Jesus in our community? Jesus Christ is so gracious; He is so generous: He is so loving; He is so merciful to us — and we turn around and treat the world like that, “in His name?? “Better that a heavy millstone be hung around our neck and that we be drowned in the depths of the sea than we cause one of these little ones to perish”!  Our salt has lost its savor when we’ve lost our witness in the community.

Now someone’s gonna go home and say “Bro. Shawn preached about tipping in restaurants today” — well, that’s true — but it’s about a lot MORE than that, isn’t it? Because it’s not just about tipping and restaurants; it’s about EVERYTHING we do, everywhere we go. 

We’ve got to understand is that you don’t just come to church and put on your little “Christian uniform”, and take it off when you leave this building. You are wearing His “uniform” ALL THE TIME. You are wearing His uniform in that restaurant — don’t disgrace it by your stinginess and meanness. You tip generously and treat people graciously: You have His uniform on — you are representing HIM!  

— You have your “uniform” on when you’re making that business deal,

— You have your “uniform” on when you are talking to your neighbors.

— You have your “uniform” on when you are in line at WalMart.  

You’ve got to understand: you are never “off duty” as a Christian; you are ALWAYS “in uniform.”

That’s why I Corinthians 10:31 says “WHATEVER you do, do ALL to the glory of God.” You are always “in uniform”; everything you do reflects on the glory of your God.  

You know one of the biggest problems we have in evangelism here Texas and really all through the South? It’s that too many folks here have seen too many people who claim to be Christians, and then dishonor God with their lives — so now they’re totally closed to the message of the gospel, because the “so-called” “Christians” they’ve seen are “salt that’s lost its savor.”  

That’s why we’ve got to take this seriously. That’s why we’ve got to remember that our whole purpose for being on this earth is to glorify God, and that we are always His salt, and His light, 24 hours a day; 7 days a week — we are “always in His uniform.” Do not disgrace it! 


— As we come to this invitation time, some of us as God’s people need to recommit ourselves to take our walk with God more seriously.

— Maybe you’ve just been doing whatever – whatever felt good, whatever seemed good — but God’s showing you today that you have a bigger purpose to live for, and that’s going to change some things in your life.

— Maybe you just need to ask Him to help you remember that you “always have His uniform on”, wherever you — maybe you need to ask forgiveness for how you’ve acted somewhere recently, where you forgot your witness as a Christian.

— There’s all kinds of ways we can respond: maybe you need to be part of the prayer-walking, taking the “salt” of our prayers out into the streets of Angleton — or BE the salt by helping some particular person or group in some way God is showing you.

— LOTS of us need to ask God to help us be the “light.” Ask Him to give you an opportunity THIS WEEK to share the gospel with someone.

— Or you need to ask Jesus to be your Savior today; you can do that right now …

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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2 Responses to “Glorifying God as Salt & Light” (Matthew 5:13-16 sermon)

  1. Vilma Domingo says:

    I thank God for your life Pastor Shawn. Your God-inspired sermons are powerful.

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