Imagine if you will that you are living during the early New Testament period. The ministry of Jesus is drawing large crowds. People are wanting to get as close as possible to hear the Teacher share Kingdom principles for living. Let’s pick up in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 5, beginning in verse 1. “One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, and he began to teach them.”
Over the next three chapters, Matthew records what we have come to know as “The Sermon on the Mount.” Notice the cultural differences pertaining to communicating the truth.
In our present culture, Christians are conditioned to certain types of sermons and preaching styles. We boost speakers’ egos with terms such as powerful, anointed, and the best I have ever heard. I am repeatedly amused by the response of people when it comes to rating a good sermon or exceptional speaker. Often, this revolves around terms such as charisma, energy, presentation, or length of time.
Jesus is ready to present a teaching that is definitely a classic, however it cannot be compared to any sermon that many believers would consider a classic. A classic sermon today for someone in my generation might possibly include, “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards, “Payday Someday” by Robert G. Lee, or “The Fourth Man” by Oral Roberts. A classic to someone in their twenties might list “Abused but Not Defeated” by Christine Caine, “Unhitched” by Andy Stanley or “How Great is Our God” by Louie Giglio. But what about “The Sermon on the Mount” by Jesus Christ?
Matthew records that Jesus sat down and taught the people. Again, imagine being in the setting of a natural amphitheater. The cultural posture and style during the time of Christ was the teacher sat and the audience stood. I cannot believe the lecture of our Master was over in thirty minutes. In today’s culture the preacher stands and the people sit in comfortable seats with high demand in regard to the length of the message.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ focuses on two major streams of thought as it related to discipleship in the life of a Christ-follower; Christian character and principles for living.
The teachings begin with the subject matter of blessing in which the Master outlines nine characteristics of kingdom citizens. These traits include: humility, purity of the heart, righteousness, peace and mercy, as well as four additional areas that contribute to Christian character. The Teacher does not mix words. Rather, He goes straight to the point of what it truly means to be a disciple.
Following our Lord’s opening remarks as they relate to the Beatitudes, Jesus employs the use of imagery to explain discipleship at a deeper level. It is great to study discipleship, complete a course, read a book or listen to the experts. Many students of discipleship have no doubt read Disciples Are Made Not Born by Walter Henrichsen. In the 1970’s when I read the book for the first time, discipleship was not emphasized in the church. The ideal was to make Christians, but not necessarily disciples. Henrichsen came and introduced the concept of making disciples through spiritual growth and maturity.
The bottom line is understanding that discipleship is a process that requires commitment to a lifestyle that is on display.
That is the heart of the matter Jesus introduced to the multitudes in verses 13-15,“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
Jesus utilizes the images of salt and light. He simply states that His followers need to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Why did Jesus use these images? Salt was a precious commodity. In the times of Christ, soldiers were sometimes paid with salt, thus giving support to the phrase “worth your salt.” Salt was also used as a preservative and for flavoring. Disciples are meant to be precious, influential and bring “flavor” to the people and places that we are invested in.
In like manner, true disciples are not only meant to be recipients of light, but givers of light. Second Corinthians 4:6 states, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (NIV). Jesus in Matthew 5 and Paul in 2 Corinthians 4 emphasizes that “light in” should result in “light out” for disciples. So let your light shine!
Discipleship on display is the hope for a corrupt world filled with chaos and darkness. As Christ followers let us be committed to obeying our Lord’s instructions. Be salt! Be light!
Bill Terry is the National Director for Men’s Ministries and the Assistant Director for Discipleship Ministries. Bill resides in Oklahoma City with his lovely wife Rita, where they will celebrate 44 years of marriage in 2015. He is the proud head of an extended family that includes two sons Gregory and Rodney, daughters-in-law Holly and Brec, granddaughters Grace, Annie, Emily and Elena and grandson Adam Gregory.