The day I ran out of our Sunday School class -
I was in the middle of listening to the teaching from Luke
on the topic of Heaven and Hell -
I had just cried through all of worship and part of the morning sermon –
a sermon on Jesus commissioning His disciples to preach the Gospel -
1 day after seeing a picture of the headstone for the first time -
2 and a half months after his passing -
4 months after last seeing him in the hospital – stroking his head, kissing his forehead, squeezing his hand, looking him in the eyes, and telling him for the last time face to face, “I love you, dad.”
One year after being sent as a ‘missionary’,
I lost a loved one that may be separated from Christ forever –
My God has been gracious and brought me comfort, hope, strength, and great peace the last couple of months. But, on this day, I finally came face to face with the reality that I knew I had to eventually deal with.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,
but whoever rejects the Son will not see life,
for God’s wrath remains on him.
I’ve prayed, from the beginning of my dad’s deteriorating health, that my faith and trust in Christ would not be shaken even if ones I love pass away without knowing Him. And, thanks be to my Heavenly Father, it has not. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I know what I believe and He is good and faithful – ALWAYS – even, when my longing and prayers for dad to know the only One who could save him seem to have been ‘unanswered’. But, only God truly knows the condition of my father’s soul right before he passed away. Paraphrasing Randy Alcorn’s words, I don’t know whether the Holy Spirit of God might have done a work of grace in his heart and life at the last moment.
Am I angry or upset with God? No. He is loving, sovereign, and just. Rather, I am frustrated and disappointed with myself. Oh the sorrow, the regrets over missed opportunities, and the intermingling whispers of failure. In my feeble attempts, I tried to share Christ – a Bible, the kids’ drawings with written verses, my written testimony, a life that I pray was an example of Christ living in me…but in the end, it doesn’t seem like it was enough.
In the sermon that day, I was side struck by an illustration and application that the pastor shared…
It’s not just enough to say I’m going to live a good life before others. There’s a story of a man who came to Christ during an evangelistic event in the Pacific Northwest and when he told his boss about it, this boss responded with, “Well that’s great! I’m a Christian and I’ve been praying for you for years.” But the new believer was heartbroken. “Why didn’t you ever tell me?” he said. “You’re the very reason I haven’t been interested in the gospel all these years.” “How can this be?” the boss wondered. “I’ve done my very best to live a Christian life around you.” “That’s the point,” he exclaimed, “You’ve lived such a model life without telling me that it was Christ who made the difference in your life. I convinced myself that I could live the same way you could live – without Christ.”
Mark Mittleberg said this. It’s a little strong, but I believe it’s true. “Our popular version of evangelism says, ‘If I just live as a consistent Christian, people will see it, figure it out, and come to Christ.’ But that approach isn’t biblical, and it doesn’t work.” Everything I’ve shared with you today is to go tell and compel them to come. Yes, I understand Matthew 5:16 “Go let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify God in heaven.” Yes, we are to live a good, moral, and ethical life. We’re to represent Christ, but we were commissioned to go tell.
How my mind summarized all of this and what I actually wrote in my sermon notes came out as: ’Just living a moral and ethical Christian life isn’t biblical. We are commanded to go and TELL of Jesus Christ. Yes, we are to shine our light, but, sadly it may point to our own accomplishments and works and not to our need for Christ’s saving power and work in us – if we don’t also PROCLAIM Him.’
Over the next several days, I did a lot of praying and a little digging in online commentaries and sermons to try to better understand what it means to ‘shine our light’.
John Gill’s commentary of Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men” states,
…the spiritual knowledge and mysteries of grace…were to be openly declared and made manifest before men…
He goes on to say “that they may see your good works” refers to
…their zeal and fervency, their plainness and openness; their sincerity, faithfulness, and integrity, their courage and intrepidity; their diligence, (and) industry..in preaching the Gospel; their strict regard to truth, the honor of Christ, and the good of souls; as also their very great care and concern to recommend the doctrines of grace, by their examples in their lives and conversations
Matthew Henry’s commentary of the same verse states,
They must shine as lights, by their good preaching, the knowledge they have. They must communicate for the good of others – not put it under a bushel, but spread it.
In the fuller context of Matthew 5:13-16, John MacArthur makes a distinction between being ‘salt’ and being ‘light’, stressing the need for both:
Salt is the silent testimony, it is our moving through the world and affecting it with our very life…..We are to flavor life with the wonder of God’s presence among us. We are to sting and convict the sinful wound of the world. We are to create a thirst for Christ by the very way we live….but light shines on the outside, and light is open and working visibly. In other words, salt is the influence of Christian character; it is quiet but powerful. Light is the communication of the content of the Gospel. So there are two sides; on one hand, we live it, on the other hand, we preach it…It isn’t just in our words, but in our very overt, open godly conduct. We are not to be just a subtle influence like salt, but we are to be a very open and blatant influence like light…"Let your light so shine before men that they will see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven." That implies, first of all, that they see our good works. Secondly, they glorify our Father in Heaven; that means they’ve heard something about our Father in Heaven. It implies both a life and a message lived and spoken.
We are told to be witnesses, as salt and light, to share what Jesus has done in our lives and to share our story. Did I do that? I, honestly, don’t know how well it came across. Was I fearful, feeling inadequate, too busy, or worse by far, ashamed of the gospel? As an introvert, desiring to please my earthly parents and not cause strife, I admit that I wasn’t bold enough to speak and share freely of what Jesus had done in my life and relied too much on hoping that my life (that silent, salt-like testimony) would point others to Christ.
I know that I wasn’t the only one who could speak the Living Word of Truth to my dad, that he had the opportunity to read the Gospel, and that even all of creation reveals who He is. I also have to remember that it wasn’t up to me. Regardless of what I may have said (or neglected to say), did (or did not do), the Holy Spirit is the One who convicts of sin and leads someone to come to faith in Christ.
I overflow with tears as I type this…It is too late for my dad. He can no longer decide whether to either accept or reject Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior. Only God knows, at this point, the final decision that was made and dad’s eternal destiny.
Have you decided? While we were still sinners, God sent His own Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins so that we would no longer be separated from Him. Have you trusted in Jesus and repented from your sins?
Have you shared the great news? Who is in your life that God has commissioned you to go and reach with the wonderful, life giving message of Christ dying on the cross to save them from their sins?
Live to know Him and make Him known.