IS FAITH A “PRIVATE” MATTER?

JOHN 12:42-43, 46: “Many rulers believed in Jesus. However, they wouldn’t admit it publicly because the Pharisees would have thrown them out of the synagogue. They were more concerned about what people thought of them than about what God thought of them…I am the light that has come into the world so that everyone who believes in me will not live in the dark.” (GW)

OBSERVATION: Is faith a “private” matter? Do we live our life of faith in the shadows, or openly in the light for all to see? There were times in my life when, like the rulers who were afraid to publicly confess their belief in Jesus, I lived like a Christian undercover. However, is this what God intended? When I ponder these questions my heart is drawn to Jesus’ teaching on the Sermon on the Mount, and two important contrasts that bring both clarity and balance.

  • “You are light for the world. A city cannot be hidden when it is located on a hill. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket. Instead, everyone who lights a lamp puts it on a lamp stand. Then its light shines on everyone in the house. In the same way let your light shine in front of people. Then they will see the good that you do and praise your Father in heaven.” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:14-16‬ ‭GW‬‬)
  • “Be careful not to do your good works in public in order to attract attention. If you do, your Father in heaven will not reward you…When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites. They like to stand in synagogues and on street corners to pray so that everyone can see them. I can guarantee this truth: That will be their only reward. When you pray, go to your room and close the door. Pray privately to your Father who is with you. Your Father sees what you do in private. He will reward you.” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:1, 5-6‬ ‭GW‬‬)

At cursory glance one might think that these two teaching are in contradiction to each other. Yet, at closer look they are really defining what it means to live in the light, to live out our faith. Our life of faith is to be both public and private. It is to be declared on the mountain tops, and kept secret in our closet. How can we do both?

We are called to live out our life of obedience to the Lord’s commands in public. This is not for a public show, but it is shown in public. When one obeys the Lord, when their lives are actively walking upon the pathway of righteousness, it is impossible to hide this from others. If there is a bushel over our life, it is probably because we are harboring something in our lives that is not of the light. This might be a secret sin, unforgiveness in our lives, or some affection or tie to this world. It may also be a spirit of timidity that is hidden under the guise of humility. In the area of obedience we are to live a life of boldness. We are to live in the light for all to see!

However, in our worship, in our acts of devotion, we are to live a life that is private. This does not mean that we live this part of our life in the shadows.  It does not mean that we never publicly pray, or confess our faith to others, or allow our gifts to be seen. Rather, it mean that we never do any of these things to be seen. We never do any of these things to draw attention to ourselves, for the essence of our worship and acts of devotion is solely to turn our attention to the Lord. To use that which is sacred in our life of faith to draw attention to ourselves is just another way we put a bushel over the light God has given us.

In both our life of obedience, and our life of worship, our light is to shine so that others see it and give Glory to God!
Lord, forgive me for the times when I have lived my life of faith in the shadows. Forgive me for the times when I have been more concerned about what others might think, than about what You think. Grant me the grace to walk in boldness and humility. In boldness in my witness of Your truth, and in my obedience to Your Word. In humility in my life of worship and my acts of devotion, so that the glory always is directed and given to You.

In Jesus Name!

About Kirk's Devotional Journal

Kirk L. Zehnder is the Founder of Resurrection Christian Outreach. RCO is a ministry that promotes the growth and vitality of the local church through speaking engagements, seminars, various media tools, and written curriculum and books. This ministry was started over 35 years ago by Kirk as a means to strengthen the church that he was pastoring. It grew as Kirk began to share these tools with other churches. Today many of the materials are being used by local churches both nationally and internationally. Kirk's Devotional Journal is a result of struggling with Bible reading programs that never seemed to work. Kirk feels the Lord helped him discover an easy to follow program to Read, Reflect, Pray, and Journal through the Bible in one year. This program is called L.I.F.E. Unlike other programs there are no dates to follow. You can miss a day and still complete your reading. You never feel like the dates and verses you missed are chasing you. You are free to enjoy your daily Biblical journey and listen to the voice of The Lord. For more information on the L.I.F.E. plan, send an email to rcoutreach@aol.com. Kirk is also available for speaking engagements, seminars, and retreats. With over 40 years of professional business and pastoral ministry experience, Kirk brings a unique combination of practical wisdom, humor, and Biblical insight. If you would like Kirk to speak at your church, school, or ministry, please send an email to rcoutreach@aol.com and we will get back to you as soon as possible to discuss your opportunity.
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