The Greek word translated as “repentance” literally means “to change one’s mind”. When Jesus began His ministry, He came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15, NKJV). With that in mind, I want to challenge you to consider how you might change your mind about the Sermon on the Mount.

The Sermon on the Mount is a description of character and not a code of ethics or of morals. It is not about what we must do to be a Christian, but what God does once we become one (Lloyd-Jones, 1976). In other words, it is not a list of requirements for entering the kingdom of God, but a description of the life we are empowered to live as we enter in.

As we consider hearing these sayings and “doing” them, the greatest challenge we face is coming to terms with not only not being able, but also not being expected, to do them in our strength, power, intelligence, etc. This is not a high-minded spiritual concept. It is a very practical principle for life in the kingdom of God (i.e., our salvation). It is by grace (alone), through faith (alone) that we come to understand and enter God’s kingdom.

In his book, The Sermon on the Mount, Roger L. Shinn (1962) recognizes the salt and light passage as the first half of a kingdom paradox. The second is found in Matthew 6:1, 5, and 16, where Jesus warns His disciples to avoid giving charity, praying, and fasting to be seen by others. So, how is one to be light to the world and not let others see what they are doing? The resolution to the paradox is found in Matthew 5:17-20, the subject of our next lesson.

Before we go there, we must first understand Jesus’ metaphor of salt and light, which itself contains a mystery requiring our repentance (i.e., thinking differently). Doing so will also shed some light (pun intended) on Shinn’s paradox.

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 that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, 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 5:13-16

In this saying, Jesus moves from describing the character of a kingdom citizen – states of being that are only possible through His life – to the way a citizen of the kingdom lives out the normal Christian life. Notice He did not say His disciples “would be” salt and light. Here, at the beginning, without training and revelation, and without death, burial and resurrection, they are salt and light.

This reminds me it was soon after calling the disciples that Jesus sent them to preach the gospel of the kingdom to the surrounding towns and villages (Mark 6:7-12). Apparently, their willingness to follow Him created, or released, something in their being. There is a very powerful suggestion here that a follower of Jesus Christ can be immediately effective in ministry. If it was true for the first disciples, how much more for those who have His resurrected life and the Holy Spirit’s power?

So, what do we “do” with these salt and light sayings? Let me suggest a few things for your prayerful consideration. First, Jesus’ saying regarding our saltiness infers that we should flavor the earth around us. That requires our making contact. Sequestered Christians are like carefully boxed salt: worthless until it spills out into the world.

We should also make the world a more flavorful place. My dad taught me to leave things better than I found them (e.g., clean up more than the mess I made). This applies to everything we touch, but mostly to the people we engage on a daily basis. In other words, we are to be the aroma of life to them (2Corinthians 2:16). Otherwise, we exist somewhere between useless and the aroma of death.

We must do whatever is necessary to maintain – and perhaps improve – the intensity and attractiveness of our flavor. The normal Christian life consists of several maturation processes that are to be continual and progressive (e.g., belief, transformation, sanctification, salvation). Following Jesus Christ is a sacrificial journey that must be endured to the end.

Then there is the matter of salt losing its flavor. How does that happen? In the natural realm, salt loses its flavor and usefulness when it is mixed with impurities. Spiritually speaking, kingdom citizens lose their influence on the world when they compromise with it. Having become the kingdom citizens described in the Beatitudes, the first order of business is to protect our identity.

In regards to our being the light of the world, notice that Jesus does not say, “Go do good works.” The doing of this saying is “let your light shine before men”. Now, from John 1:4, we know that our light is the life of Jesus Christ. Our doing is letting the Holy Spirit, through transformation, remove our self-centered and carnal nature; that we would become the very same image as the glory of the Lord (2Corinthians 3:18).

As the vessels and instruments of God’s light, we are to be obvious and of service to all in the house. This is perhaps easier understood in terms of what we should not be doing. We should not be hiding, and we should not be self-serving. People know when light enters a room, and they are drawn to it. While not all will appreciate the light – many prefer hiding their deeds in the darkness – we should anticipate at least a few individuals will be drawn to the life that is within us. And we should use the opportunity to walk in the good works that glorify our Father in heaven.

Lastly, notice we are to let our light shine, not make it shine. “Let” is a small but powerful word in Scripture and a good word study. Many times, letting something happen is the hardest thing to do. In this case, “let” means getting out of God’s way; so He can do the work that will bring Him glory. If we want the glory, we will do the work; but it will not be His. Good work is God’s work. If you are interested in more on this, check out The Life that Glorifies our Father in Heaven.

In closing, let me remind you that God is working in us to will and to do to His good pleasure; which is to give us His kingdom (Philippians 2:13; Luke 12:32). He is faithful and persistent in His work. He will complete what He has begun, if we will let Him. Choose today, right now, to let Him have His way.

God bless you with grace and courage as kingdom salt and light, that you might enjoy His presence and glory.

Humbly yours and forever His,


Shinn, R. L. (1962). The Sermon on the Mount. New York: Abingdon Press

Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (1971), Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company.