READ | SERMON NOTES
Summary l Following an overview of the gospel of Matthew, the beatitudes and applications to the lives of true disciples as fulfilled in the life of Jesus, we look at the practice of Christian piety. In particular, we look at the premise, heart and promise of Christian piety.
The premise of Christian piety is part of our witness to the world. Jesus addressed His disciples as salt of the earth and light in the world.
Salt does not expire and is used to preserve and enhance food. Likewise, Christians who practise piety help to preserve Jesus’s kingdom teachings and values in a world corrupted by sin. we lose our saltiness when kingdom values get diluted and we get distracted by worldly temptations. However, too much salt draws attention to man, not God. Christian piety is to be attuned to Christian living so that people will be drawn to Christ when they encounter us.
Darkness is the absence of light. Light can dispel darkness as pitch darkness is no match for a feeble candlelight. Jesus is the Light of the world, bringing hope and light to a dark world and always drawing attention to God.
The heart of Christian piety is to nurture our inner posture as true disciples of Jesus Christ. It goes deeper than the externals (prayer, giving, fasting and good deeds) but starts from the heart as we allow God to nurture our heart and motivation. Jesus focused on the way to give, pray and fast. We give not to receive praise from men but we give in secret to be rewarded by God (Mt 6:2-4). In prayer, Jesus values sincerity, authenticity over flowery language to impress others (Mt 6:5-8). We fast with joy and gladness, not to show others how we “suffer” in fasting (Mt 6:16-18). Much of Jesus’s teachings was targeted against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. God sees our hearts and values sincerity, purity of heart and motivation. In this season of Lent, will we take time to reflect and examine whether we are giving to be exalted, praying to be seen, and fasting to be acknowledged?
The promise of Christian piety leading to transformed lives of Christlikeness is blessedness and the eternal reward of being with God in heaven.
John Wesley also emphasised the importance of Christian piety. He listed the following works of piety as God-inspired channels by His grace to help us grow in faith and holiness, and encountering God by developing our relationship with God and one another – prayer, scripture reading, Holy Communion, fasting, worship, fellowship, acts of mercy and service.
1) Surrender to God
Allow God to take control and let Him change us from the inside out. Let God transform us daily in the decisions we make and our behaviour especially before our family. Acknowledge we cannot do it in our own strength and trust in God’s power to do so.
2) Seek to imitate Christ
Be obedient to God’s word to shape our attitude, action and relationships. Lean on the Holy Spirit to help us be more like Jesus who submitted to the Father’s will in carrying the Cross and dying for our sake.
3) Serve with an eternal perspective
Fix our eyes on eternal significance and rewards in serving our eternal God to give us hope and right motivation to endure suffering and avoid temptation. God’s glory is revealed in us as we become more like Christ.
May we be found faithful through the practice of Christian piety and be conformed to Christ that we may show the world that this is our Father’s world and give glory to Him. May we not rest contented with faith that is marked by complacency, hypocrisy and self-gratification but show love, compassion and Christ to all.
(Sermon notes by Woo Choi Yin)
PONDER | REFLECTION QUESTIONS
Let’s Recall, Reflect, Consider and Commit.
- Recall of the lives of Christians around you in your communities that inspired you in faith.
- How did they exemplify as salt and light of the world? (Matthew 5:13-16)
- Reflect on Matthew 6:1-8, 6:16-18 and 7:1-5 (NRSV). The Greek word translates “piety” as “righteousness” as well.
- In the passages provided, what did Jesus teach that reflects righteousness?
- Consider what it means to practice piety in our daily walk with God.
- What is hindering you from practising?
- Take a few minutes to talk to God and allow the Spirit to reveal and reorientate your heart.
- Commit to the Lord in this season of Lent on being salt and light of Christ before others.
- Take some time to pray and seek God in the next steps of your discipleship to witness with piety, so that others may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)