This sermon is from the series THINGS JESUS TAUGHT US and was preached at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Cherry Log, Georgia by Pastor Paul Mims. You can hear this sermon at

Matthew 5:13-16What do you have the most of and are aware of the least?

The movie “Mr. Holland’s Opus” tells the story of a musician who struggles to find success in life. Mr. Holland dreams of composing a magnificent symphony that will be played by orchestras across the world. The problem is the real world presents him with bills that have to be paid. He takes a job as a high school music teacher, figuring that after four years of teaching he’ll have saved enough to quit and do nothing but compose music. He absolutely hates teaching, but when his wife unexpectedly becomes pregnant the savings earmarked for a life of composing have to be sacrificed to a mortgage. Throughout the course of the movie we see a remarkable change in Mr. Holland. He comes to love teaching. He finds ways to inspire his students to love music, but not only that, to find their self-confidence. This becomes his passion and his source of fulfillment. Thirty years pass, and Mr. Holland is about to retire, and his dream of becoming a famous composer remains unfulfilled. On his final day as a teacher he packs up his desk, and heads for his car. On the way he hears music coming from the auditorium. Intrigued, he goes to see what’s happening. He opens the door to find the auditorium filled with his students from the past 30 years. They’re playing a piece of music he wrote. It’s a concert in his honor. One of Mr. Holland’s former students delivers a speech:

“Mr. Holland had a profound influence in my own life, yet I get the feeling that he considers the greater part of his own life misspent. Rumor had it that he was always working on that symphony of his, and this was going to make him famous, rich, probably both. But Mr. Holland isn’t rich, and he isn’t famous, at least not outside of our own little town. So it might be easy for him to think himself a failure. And he would be wrong. Because I think he has achieved a success far beyond riches and fame. Look around you. There is not a life in this room that you have not touched. And each one of us is a better person because of you. We are your symphony, Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. And we are the music of your life.”

Every person has influence like the sun and moon. The sun gives light and warmth to all of us on earth. Notice how your flowers turn toward the sun. The moon causes such a gravitational pull on the seas that our tidal range on the Georgia Coasts is up to nine feet. People are influenced by other people. Think of the people who have influenced you positively or negatively.

We have influence in all realms.

Compare the influence of a devout Christian father and mother on their children with the influence of a negligent, indifferent parent who holds no godly attributes and is opposed to anything that has to do with God or the church.

Compare the influence of a kind, neighborly, community minded person with one who is unfriendly and unconcerned about anyone else.

Compare the influence of a one who is a law abiding, patriotic person with one who is law breaking, un-respectful, and contentious about authority.

Compare the influence of one who is of a pleasant disposition with one who is grouchy and suspicious of everyone.

Compare a church worker who gives time and energy and co-operates with everyone to a church worker who is always offended and who wants everything done his or her way.

Influence is powerful. Jesus told us that in his analogy of his servants being salt and light among people.
I. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A SALT CHRISTIAN “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again. It is good for nothing, except to be thrown out and be trampled by men.” (v.13)

Jesus is saying, “My followers have tremendous influence that I give them to cause people to want the better things in life.” That is why some people are called, “The salt of the earth.
Salt is used for FLAVOR. When you say, “Pass the salt,” you are saying, “I want to improve the taste of my food.” Christian influence gives flavor to life. Jesus does not give us a box of salt and says, “Go, spread it around.” He is saying, “You are salt. It is in your character. It is what I have made of you. It is what you have become for me.”
Someone has expressed it like this:
To me it was not the truth you taught
To you it was so clear, To me it was so dim.
But when you came to me, you brought a sense of Him.

And from your eyes, He beckons me
And from your heart His love is shed.
And I lose sight of you and see the Christ instead.

Salt is also connected with the thought of PURITY. The color of “white” give this impression as it comes from the sun and sea. I have walked among the salt fields on the Island of Bonarie in the Dutch West Indies and have seen how the workers lived in little huts and curried the salt from the sea. They piled it up in gleaming white mounds that were striking to the eye.

Two brothers bought fish tanks. The younger brother’s setup was very simple – a fishbowl with some gravel and weed. The older brother’s was much more elaborate – a larger, enclosed tank with a filter, lighting and much better decoration.

The younger brother rarely cleaned his tank. The older brother was vigilant in keeping his tank clean.
The older brother couldn’t understand then why his fish died but his brother’s lived.

It turns out the cleaning chemicals the older brother was using were toxic to fish. Whenever he cleaned the tank tiny traces of the chemical remained, but these were enough to kill his fish.

There is an interesting story in 2 Kings 2:19-21 where the prophet Elisha comes to Jericho. They said to him, “Our water supply is polluted.” Elisha said, “Bring me a bowl of salt.” He put the salt into the water and it was purified. It was a miracle of that day and this. It is called “Elisha’s fountain” and we had a cup of cool clear water from it.


In the time of Jesus, salt was used for preserving meat. On our farm we had a smoke house where there hung various kinds of meats that were covered in salt. The meat was smoked and salted. The salt permeated the meat and preserved it.

Our present society is decaying around us. Morals are changing before us quickly. Wrong is now right and good is now evil. But the reason that God is patient and with-holding his judgment is because of people like you who permeate and preserve our culture from total decay.

When we write letters, we commonly end them with “Yours sincerely”. Have you ever wondered why you do this? The practice has its origins in ancient Rome. Roman sculptors often concealed cracks in apparently flawless marble statues with melted beeswax. When the wax dried and crumbled, the angry purchaser sought compensation. Reputable sculptors guaranteed their work as sine sera, which means ’without wax’. Hence ‘Yours sincerely’. Likewise, we are called to be people of integrity whose words are true. (Source: reported in Talkback Trash and Treasure)

II. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A “LIGHT” CHRISTIAN “You are the light of the world. A city 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 men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (vv.14-16)

The second image that Jesus used of his followers was A LIGHT THAT SHINES. He comes now to the purpose of our witness for him. He says, “You must give light.” Just to be in the world is not enough. Just to be in the world and give a silent witness is not enough. You must enlighten someone’s darkness. You must enlighten spiritual understanding.

Jesus places upon us the responsibility of shining light on the spiritual darkness in people’s minds and hearts. We are to do this by being the truth about the possibilities of life. There is no place of service in the kingdom for lights that will not shine. What do you do when a light bulb burns out? You replace it with another or else you are in the dark. We are to let our light shine in this culture of spiritual darkness. This light must shine not only in the church – it must shine in the world. That is where he wants us – shining to those who are not in the church.

There are lights also that GUIDE. When we were sailing there were times when we would enter a harbor in darkness and be guided by the lights along the channel. We knew that if we got out of the channel we could run aground on a shoal. But the lights were true and we found our way in to safe harbor. The light of Christ in us is a reliable guide for those who are searching to find their way to him. Some of you are now guiding people to him.

Also, there are lights that WARN. Have you ever seen the engine warning light on your dash board come on to tell you that something must be done to correct a problem in your car – or it will stop? The Christian is to be a warning light to unbelievers that life will one day be over and they have to get ready.

Hanging in the US National Gallery of Art in Washington DC is a series of four paintings by Thomas Cole. The series is called “The Voyage of Life”. Each painting depicts a stage of life: childhood, youth, manhood and old age.

The first painting is of childhood. It shows a mountain with a dark cave at its base and a river flowing out of the cave. A beautiful timber boat glides out of the cave into a world of lush vegetation, flowers in bloom and a peaceful, gentle surface on the water. Inside the boat is a laughing baby with a Guardian Spirit standing right behind. The painting shows childhood as a time of wonder and joy.

The second painting is called “youth”. We see the same boat now traveled further downstream. The baby has grown into a teenage boy. He stands in the rear, confidently steering the boat towards a majestic white castle off in the distance. The riverbanks are still lush and green and the Guardian Spirit stands on those banks, watching the young man boldly chart his course. The painting shows youth as a time of dreaming and absolute self confidence that nothing can hold me back.

When we look at the third painting the scene has changed dramatically. The youth has become a man, the river has become a raging torrent, and the sky has become dark and threatening. The castle of dreams is nowhere to be seen and the boat’s rudder has broken. Up ahead lie treacherous rocks, with white water crashing all around them. The man in the boat is caught up by forces he can’t control. With the rudder broken he cannot steer his boat. All he can do is look up to the sky and pray. Meanwhile the Guardian Spirit sits hidden in the clouds. Cole is picturing adulthood as a time when the joy and wonder of childhood have been tamed by the difficult and tragic experiences of life, when the confidence and boldness of youth have been swept away by the harsh realities of life.

The final painting is called “Old Age”. The battered and weathered boat has finally reached the ocean. The dark clouds remain but the water is still. The boat’s occupant is now an old man, and his gaze is fixed firmly on the clouds out there in front of him, clouds pierced by the glorious light of heaven, the light pierced by angels coming to and fro. For the first time in his life the man sees the Guardian Spirit that has accompanied him on his journey. It comes, takes him by the hand and prepares him for his journey into the heavens. (Source: Scott Higgins, based on the artwork.)

Somebody influenced you to come to church today. They were salt and light to you. What will you do about it? Do you want the light that is in them to be in you? You can be salt and light for Jesus.

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