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Welcome back to our Celebrating God at Work and School series.
If you’re just joining us, I encourage you to start with episode 99 so that we can lay all the right foundation stones together. As a Biblical counselor, I constantly strive to present God’s Word in a theo-logical order that allows more difficult concepts to be built on the right foundational truths.
So, please work through this short series from the beginning in order to really appreciate the scope
And — if you’re new to The Celebration of God — I would also strongly encourage you to start with our introductory episodes. Once you work through those, you’ll have a much better understanding of what The Year Long Celebration of God is and how it works.
And while you’re checking out CelebrationOfGod.com, look for today’s episode notes, transcript, and discipleship resources on our blog, and check out our other podcast series for more discipleship opportunities.
And — with that — let’s get into today’s content by way of a short review.
I started this series with our responsibility to Live and Learn because if we don’t recognize (and live in) the reality of what God is trying to do in our lives through our employment and education, we’ll never be able to honor God by obeying the other expectations He has for us.
We’d forever be wrapped up in our own little idolatrous desires and goals for our work and school, and we’d perpetually miss what God was doing.
But once we understand what God would have us Learn and then start Living in that reality, we are on the right path to Follow and Lead in a way that pleases Him. Since we’ll be working toward His ends, we’ll have no problem submitting to our authorities as to Christ, and we’ll also have no problem modeling for everyone around us how a child of God is to live at school and work.
And our last conversation teased today’s topic because — with that important foundation laid — we can now get even more specific as to what it looks like to submit to God on the job and in the school.
And today’s two marching orders are to Act and Speak.
So, let’s turn to Matthew 5:13-16 in order to better understand what God wants to accomplish through you today.
Matthew 5:13-16, “13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. 14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
As we learned more about our responsibility to Follow and Lead, we learned that we must obey our authorities as we would obey Christ, but there weren’t too many specifics in the actual tenor and content of that obedience. Today, we’re going to learn what our highest priorities should be as we submit to God’s will for our lives.
But in order to set the stage for today’s discussion, I want to revisit a topic we talked briefly about on our last episode.
Here’s the question: Why are you here?
Why are you here on this earth?
I can promise you that when you were born again, God didn’t leave you on this earth simply to become the CEO of a company or to graduate from higher education. You are here primarily to be salt and light on this earth, and — the longer you are here — God expects you to become a brighter light and saltier salt.
We could put it this way . . . you were left on this earth — first and foremost — to participate in evangelism and discipleship. Your job and your education are the venues and tools you’re to use as you evangelize and disciple.
And — for clarity sake — evangelism is the process whereby you introduce unbelievers to God and encourage them to trust in His saving work on the cross. And discipleship is the process whereby you grow in your sanctification — that is, your conformity to Christ — and help other believers do the same. Those believers may be individuals whom you have lead to Christ through your evangelistical efforts, or they may be any other believer God has placed into your life.
That, my friends, is why you are here. That’s why I’m here. There is no higher calling.
In order to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and in order to love your neighbor as yourself, you must be engaged in actively sharing the truth about God with your community of unbelievers and engaging in the discipleship of your community of believers while you too are in the process of being conformed to the image of Christ from one degree of glory to another.
And since that is the highest calling God has on your life, that means that He expects you to fulfill that calling while you’re at work and school.
Now, we’re going to talk at the end of today’s show about a wise and ethical approach to evangelism and discipleship on the job. You know, if you get a job at a supermarket and only ever preach from an apple crate in the produce section, you’re going to lose your job and — consequently — your ability to be salt and light there.
But — first — let’s go back to Matthew 5 to make sure we understand what it is to engage in evangelism and discipleship. Of course, we’re only going to scratch the surface today, but it will get us started on the right foot.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.”
Many an individual has taken the time to carefully unpack all of the metaphors involved in being the salt of the world. Salt adds flavor, it preserves, and so on. But my goal for this series about worshipping God at work and school is slightly less uplifting.
Did you notice that the first recorded time Christ talked about being the salt of the earth, He did so from a negative context? Yes, He explains the positive expectation, but then He focuses on what happens when we fail to meet that expectation.
When we fail to be the salt of our school or the salt of our job, when we do not carry the taste of spiritual things into those arenas, how can we be made salty again?
Jesus goes on to say that — at such a point — the salt (that is, our testimony) is worthless, and is good for nothing but to be thrown out.
Now, I’ve worked many a job, and I’m sad to say that I was worthless salt at most of them. I hadn’t Learned what God wanted to accomplish at my job, and I wasn’t Living in that reality. I wasn’t Following as I should, and I definitely wasn’t Leading as I should, which meant that I wasn’t Acting and Speaking as I should.
I was worthless salt.
But from time to time I would experience conviction about my sinful behavior at work, and I would desire to be the salt and light I was supposed to be. But the question Christ asked in this passage weighed on me. How was I supposed to take my flavorless salt and make it valuable again?
And it was never easy.
Now, I’m not saying there is no hope, and I don’t think Christ is saying that either. If you truly are born again, but you’ve been living in sin, there is always hope for forgiveness and Christ-honoring living, but I will tell you this — the sinful choices you make on the job and in the classroom are going to follow you and likely tarnish your testimony as you try to live for Christ. Though we’re thankful when a convicted child molester submits to God, that doesn’t mean he will ever be fully welcomed teaching elementary Sunday school.
I’m not saying he should or shouldn’t, I’m saying that it will be very hard to make the salt salty again in that arena.
Yes, people may recognize that you’re not the person you once were, but many unbelievers view Christians as being nothing more than hypocrites for this exact reason. They try to be salt and light by talking a good game, but their life choices don’t really add up.
My sin on the job made my righteousness on the job seem hypocritical at best.
On the other hand, I believe Jesus may also be intimating that if you think you’re the salt of the earth — if you truly believe you’re born again — but your life does not evidence the saltiness of true repentance, then you need to reconcile with the fact that you have potentially never been born again.
In the book of John, Jesus tells us of many people who will meet Christ in eternity believing that they had a relationship with Him and being able to point to a number of things in their life that they believed were a salty influence on the world, will watch Jesus send them away because He never knew them.
I believe Christ’s words here line up with the rest of the Sermon on the Mount. No, definitely not, works do not save you, but genuine, Spirit-filled works are required once you’re saved.
What about you? Is your time at work and school a testimony to the fact that you are valuable, salty salt? Or would it be very difficult to say at all that you have ever been an intentional evangelist or disciple while on the clock?
Then Jesus continues in verse 14: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.”
Again, much teaching has gone into working through the imagery that is “light,” but for today I want us to genuinely ask the question, “Do I really worship God when I’m at school?”
If my light is hidden under a bushel, then the answer is unequivocally, “No.”
Therefore, the only way to celebrate God as I should, would be for my light to be on a metaphorical lamp stand so that it can shine on everyone around me — whether that be in band class, as a short order cook, in a corporate office, or learning about science.
So, today’s first point is . . .
1. God expects us to Act and to Speak in such a way that we shine the truth of God’s salvation into this dark world.
In Matthew 28, Jesus commands, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
That command contains the necessity of evangelism, but also discipleship.
That’s why our second point is . . .
2. God expects us to Act and to Speak in such a way that we shine the truth of God’s righteousness into this dark world.
The final verse from our passage today reads, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
The word translated “good” refers to that which is beautiful, better, commendable, excellent, fair, honest, healthy, and valuable.
The word translated “works” refers to all of our behavior and actions.
But in order for our works to actually be “good works,” they must be categorically different than the world’s good works.
As a biblical counselor this is something I encounter quite frequently. So many people think that superficial behaviors — things which any unbeliever can do — can fall under the category of good works. But they can’t, and they don’t.
Anyone can attend church. Anyone can read the Bible. Anyone can be a good student. Anyone can be a friendly cashier. Anyone can be a hard worker. Anyone can be a decent individual.
But when unbelievers do these things, God is not glorified. You can check out Romans 8:6-8 if you’re unsure about what I just proposed.
So, if God is not pleased when unbelievers do good works for godless reasons, why would He be glorified if we did the same things for the same reasons?
Well, let me tell you, if we do the same external behaviors for the same reasons the World does them, He won’t be glorified.
The difference will always be the spiritual realities that undergird and motivate the behavior.
Have you ever noticed that the Fruit of the Spirit are not external actions? Neither is putting on the armor of God. Neither is any fruit of repentance.
We Christians must throw off the mere externalism that has plagued religious zealots as long as people have been religious. Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites because they did all the right stuff on the outside, but they didn’t do it as an act of worship to God. Had it been an act of worship to God, then they wouldn’t have dismissed the weightier things of the Law, they would have pleased God, and the people around them could not miss for a second that their words and actions had grown from a spiritual act of worship to their Lord.
Okay, so, when we’re at work and school, we must Act and Speak in such a way light-giving, salty way that our coworkers and peers will be able to identify them as the act of God in us.
Now, let’s transition to a brief discussion about workplace ethics and what some people call “Life Evangelism.”
3. God expects us to Act and to Speak in such a way that we shine the truth of God into every facet of this dark world.
Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
This doesn’t mean that people see your good works and pat you on the back. It does’t mean that they compliment you to your parents. It doesn’t mean that your good works result in promotions and recognition.
Now, I’m not saying those things are inherently bad or should be avoided, I’m saying that Jesus wants our good works to be so evidently an intentional act of worship to Him that people observing our lives can’t help but recognize God in it.
In I Peter 2:12 we read, “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
This says that as unbelievers seek to slander us, they can’t help but realize — whether they like it or not — that we’re speaking the way we do and living the way we do because we value God above all else.
And I Corinthians 10:31 — a very familiar verse — says, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This means that how I eat and drink should cause people to think more accurate thoughts about God.
My friends, the uncomfortable reality is that it’s not enough to simply be a decent person. We need to be a different person, a peculiar people.
A moment ago I referenced I Peter 2:12. Well, just three verses earlier, Peter quotes the Old Testament when He says, “But you are A chosen race, A royal priesthood, A holy nation, A people for God’s own possession.”
And Titus 2:14 says something similar. Speaking of Christ, it reads, “who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”
The phrase “a people for His own possession” was translated all throughout the King James Version as “a peculiar people.”
And whether that was the best translation or not, the way these people-for-God’s-possession are described, they are definitely going to look peculiar to the World — not because they’ll dress funny and talk funny and look weird on the outside, but (as the passages explain) they will be people who do not participate in lawless deeds, people who are purified from the inside out, people who are zealous for good works, priests of God, and holy.
All of that goes far deeper than the freckle-level behavior modification. All of that is mind change. All of that is intentional living and acting and speaking in ways that people will not be surprised to learn that we’re Bible-believing Christians.
But how does all of this jive with workplace ethics? How do we reconcile this with the fallacious modern ideas that “We need to always preach the Gospel, and — when necessary — use your words”?
First, in regard to the question about workplace ethics, recognize that we should never not share the Gospel simply because there is a school or job rule against it. That would be obeying men rather than God. Even if the government itself were to forbid evangelism, we need to obey God.
However, that doesn’t mean that our every word should be God-related. I’ll discuss this more in a moment.
Second, in regard to the idea of lifestyle evangelism, my friends, nowhere in the Bible are we given the impression that being a decent person will lead people to Christ.
Yes, your life should be categorized by holy living that is so different from the World that it causes people to ask why you live the way you live, but in those moments, it will be your words that reveal to them to truth about God, their sin, and the only way they can have a living relationship with Him.
The Gospel is always preached with words.
The Gospel may be — yay, must be — exemplified with actions, but it cannot be taught, explained, preached, or shared without words.
We don’t know Christ’s will through feelings and changes in the weather. And no one will discern the integral realities of saving faith by watching us be decent humans while at work.
Romans 10:14-18 clearly says, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things! However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’ 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. 18 But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have; ‘Their voice has gone out into all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world.’”
That’s an awful lot of talking and reporting and preaching and hearing and voices. And lest you think that the final quote from Psalm 19 is referencing the fact that real human words need not be used, Paul is not suggesting that people can be saved by recognizing the glory of God in creation. He is saying that the actual voices of God’s people have gone throughout all the world to the same degree that God’s creation is unavoidable.
The point is, if our words don’t speak of God, then no one will ever glorify our God when they see our good works. They’ll glorify us. And that means that we are not being salt and light.
But what about that guy preaching from the apple crate in the produce aisle? Isn’t that still a problem? What about the well-documented reality that the most incendiary topics of conversation — which are generally banned from the workplace — are religion and politics.
How do we preach the Gospel while we’re supposed to be learning algebra? How do we preach the Gospel when we’re supposed to be digging ditches?
Thankfully, the answer is easier than we like to admit.
A. As we discussed before, we should never submit to an earthly authority who won’t allow us to obey God by being salt and light.
That demands that our coworkers and classmates won’t be able to help but recognize that our good works are a product of our relationship with God.
So, now let’s talk about what this looks like practically.
B. Talk about your God in the same way you talk about anything else that’s important to you.
Every single one of us has found plenty time at work and school to talk about our loved ones, our hobbies, our political views, our entertainment choices, and everything and anything else that’s important to us.
None of us can — with a straight face — pretend that the opportunities to talk about God aren’t there. The real problem is not that we can’t find the time, and it’s not that we don’t know what to say. No one ever had to teach you to talk about anything that’s important to you. Quite often the problem is that God’s just not that important to us. At least, He’s not the most important thing.
That’s exactly what my issue was. I would talk about my favorite bands and my favorite movies, and though I did love God to one degree or another . . . I loved the topics of music and movies more than I loved the topic of God.
But Jesus said that we need to so love Him that we hate our families by comparison. No, He’s not telling us to actually, sinfully hate our families, He’s communicating that we love them less than we love Him. That means that given a one-time opportunity to only talk about God or only talk about my family, I would eagerly choose God.
Because if I truly love God and the person to whom I’m talking, I am definitely going to find times to talk directly about Him because it pleases Him and it’s loving toward them. My friends will definitely know I’m a Christian. They will know I pray and go to church and read my Bible. They’ll know that the things of God are important to me.
But that doesn’t mean God has to be the only thing about which I talk.
C. Exemplify the divine character of God in all you do.
Love is wanting and working toward God’s best interest for the person I love. That means that sometimes the most Christ-honoring thing I can do for my kids is to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, and sometimes it’s playing games with them. As long as the latter is being done in submission to God and is not the predominant descriptor of my life, then God can use that game playing to be the best thing for my kids.
And during the game we can have silly fun, but I can also model what it is to win or lose graciously, and I can also instruct my kids about Christ-honoring game play and reprove them if they’re unkind or have a bad attitude.
And the same goes for work.
Sometimes the most Christ-honoring things you can do will be to share the Gospel with a co-worker on a lunch break, sometimes it will be quietly running your press or flipping your burgers in the joy of the Lord and to the best of your ability as an act of worship to your Creator, sometimes it will be explaining the biblical reasons you won’t be attending that after school party where alcohol will be present, and sometimes it will be praying with a friend or associate or peer who happens to share with you that they are going through a very difficult time.
And as we verbally share our faith in God, our consistent holy living will be interpreted in light of what we’ve said. And our peculiar righteousness in word and deed will be an evidence of God’s working in us instead of some kind of moral life choices we’ve made for ourselves and in our own power.
The key is that we don’t just do good things, we do them in the right way and for the right reasons. Our actions need to be filled and controlled by the character of God, the fruits of the Spirit, and the highest motivation a person can have.
Let me illustrate it this way, and I’ll be done.
I used to work at Panera Bread. I did everything you can do there, and I eventually became a regional training manager.
But let’s say that I’m working the sandwich line during a busy lunch rush. Are my coworkers going to think differently about my God simply because I follow instructions, do my work to the best of my ability, and do it with a good attitude?
No. Plenty of people do just that. In fact, that’s how Panera wants all of their employees to work. Nothing about that is inherently spiritual. Yes, it’s God’s common grace that keep unbelievers from being as bad as they could be and allows them to be decent people — so, in that sense, it is spiritual. But the world doesn’t inherently view it that way.
Now, let’s say that the person working sandwich two right next to me knows that I’m a Christian because of previous conversations we’ve had. Will he inherently interpret my quality and timely sandwich craftsmanship as a result of my relationship with God?
Let’s be honest. Probably not.
But the more I talk about the importance of God to me, and the more I both explain and exhibit the reality that I am striving to live my life as a constant sacrifice of worship, then, yes, he will likely start interpreting my actions in that light.
But, what if my following instructions and doing my best and having a good attitude is actually motivated by a covetous desire to get a promotion that my sandwich two co-worker and I are both in line to get?
First, please know that God is no longer pleased by my work because it’s being offered on the altar to myself as a pleasing sacrifice to my own pleasure. My motivation for my behavior has tarnished the entire thing.
But, we’d be fools to think that our motivation isn’t going to be visible in our actions. Our actions are always a physical representation of our spiritual intentions. The quality of my sandwich making is definitely going to be soiled by my selfishness. It may happen right away, it may happen over time, but it will be visible to others. And God won’t be glorified by it.
The only “good works” that will result in my classmates thinking rightly about our God are the ones that are motivated by the character and worship of God.
I need to intentionally and consciously do my best on the sandwich line because my God is worthy of my best. As we said last time, it’s not to impress people. It’s not to get a raise. It’s not to get extra hours, a promotion, or catch the eye of my employer. I need to do my absolute best simply because God commands it.
And that will always affect how my life will be interpreted by others.
Now, couple that intentional desire to live my life for the glory of God with consistent holy living and frequent, winsome verbal testimony to our great God and the love we have for Him . . . and that my friends will be salt and light that is experienced by the world in a God-focused and — Lord willing — transformative way that will allow us to lead our classmates and coworkers to Christ and help them be more and more conformed to the image of their Savior.
At the beginning of the school year I used to ask my junior high Bible students what some of their goals for the year were. Inevitably, at least one of them would say “To get good grades.”
I would quickly affirm such goals, but then I would explain that a goal like that is not inherently Christ-honoring. I would explain that a person could get good grades in many wicked ways. They could cheat. They could hack the online grade book. They could blackmail their teacher. And they could also work their hardest in their own power and for their own purposes without any thought to pleasing God. It could be be done solely to get the attention of their favorite teacher.
And — in any of those situations and more — God will categorically not be pleased, and few people would think differently about their God because of it.
But then I would posit this substitute goal for the school year. What if — instead of focusing on merely getting good grades — you purposed and worked toward worshipping God every moment you’re at school?
Are you going to pay attention in class? Are you going to work hard, ask good questions, complete your homework to the best of your ability, and study for assessments? And will you do it all clearly evidencing the Fruit of the Spirit? Of course you are, because that’s exactly what God expects of you when you’re at school.
Will God be glorified? Yes, if done for His sole glory, He will be pleased. Will other people see your good works and will it be evident to them that you are consumed with doing your best because your God is worth it? Definitely. The way they view and interpret your behavior will clearly turn their eyes to God.
And guess what, if that were your sole goal, and if that were the way you went about your schooling, how many of you think that you would get amazing grades?
And nearly all of the hands in a classroom of 90 students would go up.
They understood it. But the question today is, do we?
Please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets and join us next time as we seek to better know, love, and worship God and help the people in our lives do the same.
To that end, we’ll be discussing God’s expectation that we Pray and Praise while at work and school.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.