Next, Jesus gives us a second area that we can put into practice, namely in our public witness.
Matthew 5:13-16 talks about being salt and light. Why are we to be salt and light? v16–
16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Have you put this into practice? If not, here’s the warning. v13–
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
If you are a Christian and the light of Jesus is burning in your heart, then nobody has to twist your arm to evangelize. It just happens naturally. What’s unnatural is if you put a lamp under a bowl (v15) and conceal the light. That’s unnatural.
You may argue, well, I have tried to be salt and light. In my dorm, at my company, everyone knows I am Christian and I have tried to share my faith with them. How can I put these words into practice?
Some of us have an evangelistic gift and it comes naturally–wherever you are, in your neighborhood, when you’re at the store, while waiting in line at Starbucks, when you are at your kid’s soccer game, you find it easy to strike up conversations with people and make connections. You build new friendships with ease, and over time, God gives you opportunities to share your faith and you seize those opportunities because you’re passionate about being salt and light.
There is a temptation at churches to set-up committees like the evangelistic committee. Harvest America was kind of like that. Put together a planning team consisting of people who have a heart for the lost. For the rest, you get a pass. Just show up. And all the burden and weight of responsibility to be salt and light are on the shoulders of a few.
But aren’t we all called to be salt and light? Aren’t we all called to be disciples and fishers of men? Isn’t it a universal calling, regardless of your vocation, that every disciple of Christ is called to go to all the nations to make disciples? The words, the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few, don’t those words apply to every believer in every generation including ours?
So how are we as a church to put these words into practice? We believe his words that we are called to be salt and light. We believe what he says that every single one of us is called to make disciples of all nations. We believe his words that the harvest is plentiful and we say, I want to be a worker. Now we got to put this into practice. And so the first step is we go out. If there is no one in our immediate sphere of influence who is open to the gospel, then we have to go somewhere else. If there is a response, we stay there. If there is no response, we shake the dust off our feet and move to another potential harvest field.
But we have to put these words into practice. We have to evangelize, not because we have a specific ministry title or because someone is assigning us a task to reach out, but simply because a Christian ought to shine.
If you won the Nobel Prize or you landed your dream job or you found the most amazing deal, or you ate at the most delicious restaurant, wouldn’t you tell others? Because naturally, you want to share good news. If you are not sharing about Christ and what he did in your life and you are a Christian, you have to wonder, do I really believe that meeting Jesus was the best thing that ever happened to me? Do I really believe that everything in this world will pass away and then people will either be spending eternity in endless joy or unending misery? By what you share about Christ or by your silence, you are gaining valuable insight as to what you actually believe about Jesus.
If we merely listen to these words and write it down in our notebooks and leave it as an insight, then Jesus says, you’re a foolish person building your faith on sand. The storm is going to wash it all away.
A third area that we are to put into practice involves church life. How are believers called to live out our faith before one another? Unlike the world where we are public, visibly shining the light of Jesus, within the church, Jesus tells us to live privately in matters of faith.
Sounds odd, right? To flesh this out a bit, Jesus offers 3 examples. First, in terms of giving, Matthew 6:1-4, Jesus tells us when giving to the needy, you need to give discretely, not so others will notice and pat you on the back. But with a self-forgetfulness.
Give money, and even to yourself, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give and forget about it. Don’t take credit for it and certainly watch out that you are not doing it for attention.
It should be pointed out that it says in v2, when you give to the needy. It doesn’t say “if,” it says, “when” – when you give. It is assumed that all believers will have a heart to give to those less fortunate because God cares for all his children, not just the rich ones.
Are you putting this into practice? Are you giving money to the poor? What about our church? Are we using our tithe just to serve our own needs or are we being generous toward other churches and other ministries who are in greater financial need? We could say, the poor, that’s not our primary ministry. Let someone else do that. But remember, these verses apply to all Christians and all churches so we have to wrestle with how we use our money. Are we being good stewards?
Then, Jesus gives the example of prayer. Again, the same warning. Don’t pray in a way that brings attention to yourself. Instead, may the bulk of your prayers be done in secret, in your prayer closet. And in your public prayers, don’t babble on and on, focus your prayers on God and His character, His goodness, not yourself, your successes or even your failures. Don’t focus on how others view you so that you feel good when you think your prayer sounded great and you feel bad when you stumbled over a few words.
Concretely, does your private prayer far outweigh your public prayer? It should. If the only time you pray is on Sundays, we got a problem. The vast majority of our prayers must be done in secret. Prayer should never be a tool we use to promote our own spirituality.
Starting in Matt 6:9, Jesus teaches us how to pray. Have you put the Lord’s Prayer into practice? I encourage you to memorize this prayer and to learn how to expand your prayer vocabulary using Jesus’ model prayer.
In addition, Jesus uses the example of fasting. When you’re fasting, Jesus says, don’t disfigure your face so that your friend asks, hey, what’s wrong? And you say, I’m fasting, you know, that’s what spiritual giants like myself do once a week. How about you? Have you been fasting? Matt 6:18, don’t fast in a way that is obvious to men, but fast as a secret act of worship unto God. Again, it doesn’t say, “if,” it says, “when.” When you fast, wash your face, do extra work so that your face doesn’t give away the fact that you are fasting.
Put this into practice. If you don’t fast now as a regular part of your spiritual life, start this week and don’t tell anyone that you started. Our heart is deceitful so we may give to the poor or we might fast because we are looking for an opportunity to tell other believers that we donated money and fasted and we went on a prayer retreat, all in the same week. Do you see how this works? Faith ought to be done largely in secret when it comes to church life. This is one way to know that we are living for God and not for the applause of men.
Regarding our interactions here among believers, I want to add one thing. Matt 7:1-6 talks about the importance of not judging other brothers and sisters in Christ with a fault finding attitude. We are never to walk around with a tape measure in hand and cast judgment against others. We have to be careful when we confront one another. Why? Because v3–there is a plank sticking out of our eye that is obstructing our view of others. No matter how hard we try to see objectively, our vision is seriously impaired so we have to start with ourselves. We have to deal with the plank in our eye first. This involves prayer and self-examination. Then, we are in a position to serve our brother or sister in helping him or her remove, not point out, but help remove gently, with care, the speck from their eye.
Esp. when there is conflict, we need to practice what Jesus outlines here. If you are in a conflict now, spend some time with these verses. Pray through them and ask God to work on your heart and then the heart of the other person.