The Twenty-First Century Church: Light Without Salt
Through many years of pastoral ministry, I have encountered many so-called evangelical Christians who do not believe in speaking about their faith. Many of them have bought into the philosophy that Christians should only witness Jesus Christ to people by their lifestyle. The mantra of these people goes like this, “You should be a witness for Jesus Christ and maybe even have to speak about it.” Many in the church today would agree with this statement. They believe that somehow through osmosis people get saved when they see Christians just being themselves. I have even heard testimonies by Christians who claimed to have won people to Christ without a spoken word. And yet, in 30 years I have never run into anyone who said that was how they got saved. Lifestyle evangelism is just an excuse to be silent about Christ. This philosophy is contrary to the express teachings of Jesus Christ who said, “… go into all nations and preach the Gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) And, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before my Father in Heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in Heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33)
The reason people like lifestyle evangelism is because it makes them feel safe. They never have to confront people about sin. They never have to stand up for righteousness. In certain crowds, they can always be spiritually ambiguous so as not to offend. They never have to face rejection and ridicule. They just live their “Christian” lives and keep their opinions to themselves. A close cousin of lifestyle evangelism is the Joel Osteen positive only Christianity. People know there is little risk of offense if you only speak positive and encouraging things. This safety issue is one of the reasons for the popularity of Mr. Osteen. In Osteen’s church, you can be a “Christian” without counting the cost of discipleship. And you never have to worry about having a contrary opinion with other people. You never have to worry that your message will offend anyone. You never have to bring up the subjects of sin and rebellion. Because all you do is encourage people to find health, wealth and prosperity in the promises of Jesus. No muss, no fuss, no confrontation, no persecution by the world. Just believe the myth that as long as you focus on improving yourself and finding your own purpose, the glow of your positive light will attract other people.
However, there is a major flaw with this philosophy. This is a Christianity who’s true light is hidden under a basket. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just a positive message of God’s gifts and promises. The Gospel is first a negative message convicting people of sin. This conviction leads to repentance and contrition before people can ever receive the positive promises of God. The ministry of the Gospel is not just positive light, it is first and foremost confrontational salt. As Jesus Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp-stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:11-16) Notice how the reference to salt is connected to people who are persecuted for righteousness sake. Salt is a metaphor about people speaking up for the truth and righteousness of God. Notice also that salt comes before the light in the passage.
Before refrigeration, salt was indispensable to fight the bacteria that would cause food poisoning. If you went to the meat market the only choice you had was meat left outdoors, usually covered with flies. Eating meat is a very positive and healthy thing. But only a fool would try to eat unrefrigerated meat without first salting it before it was cooked. The use of salt rubbed into the meat kills off the corrupting influence of insect larvae, viruses, and bacteria. Even today it is recommended to give turkey a salt rub before cooking it to prevent salmonella. Salt also has the power to clean wounds and to prevent infection. The ancients commonly used salt as a medicinal cure. But needless to say, salt in a wound is a mighty powerful irritant. It stings, but it heals. Being salt in a spiritual sense means you are an irritant to people trapped in sin and worldliness. Just as salt stings when it confronts an infected wound, so does true preaching of repentance sting prior to salvation. The authentic Gospel stings the heart of sinful, worldly and lost people. And yet, without the medicine of Gospel-salt people cannot be healed, forgiven or set free by the blood of Christ. Being salt with flavor means you actually have to speak negative truth to lost souls in order to bring them to the positive aspects of deliverance and salvation. Being salt means you have to confront the corroding bacteria of false doctrine in the world and in the church. Being salt means you have become a true disciple of Jesus Christ. It means you must be willing to sacrifice yourself and suffer possible persecution for the sake of the genuine salvation of souls.
Before Lucifer fell and became Satan his name meant light-bearer. Presently the church is crammed full of useless positive light-bearers. This is Lucifer’s plan to turn Christians into half-truth positive only speakers so the true and complete Gospel never gets out. He wants us to bring light without salt, and he has been wildly successful. This work of Satan is all about deceiving souls because the half-truths of the positive Gospel are in reality the complete lies of the Evil One. Because of the popularity of the false positive Gospel throughout the world, the real church has a severe shortage of salt-bearers. Men and women who are willing to risk, confront and speak the truth necessary so people can be authentically saved. What the church and world need more than ever is full disciples of Jesus Christ who boldly proclaim both the salt and the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ’s substitutionary atonement and God’s grace to save.
[Contributed by P. E. Harris]
P.E. Harris has been a Christan pastor, teacher, and lecturer for 30 years. He and his wife Aloma live in Southern California. The Harris’ have 5 children and 8 grandchildren. Mr. Harris’ two books will be available in 2018. Christian Fiction: Royal Rodger and the Great King: And Christian Non-Fiction: Anchors of Salvation