Sunday, February 16, 2020

Lord Build Me in Speech

Yiddish folklore offers a telling tale about our words. One such man had told so many malicious untruths about the local rabbi that, overcome by remorse, he begged the rabbi to forgive him. "And, Rabbi, tell me how I can make amends." The rabbi sighed, "Take two pillows, go to the public square and there cut the pillows open. Wave them in the air. Then come back." The rumormonger quickly went home, got two pillows and a knife, hastened to the square, cut the pillows open, waved them in the air and hastened back to the rabbi's chambers. "I did just what you said, Rabbi!" "Good." The rabbi smiled. "Now, to realize how much harm is done by gossip, go back to the square..." "And?" "And collect all your feathers."-From Hooray for Yiddish.

Words are powerful. We see this theme in James chapter 3 played out, but it’s also a theme strung through the entire book of James. Words are very powerful. They can do great good. I can encourage someone, and their spirits will be lifted. I can pray with someone, and those words will bring life. In fact, in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, we see that God spoke, and the world was made. That’s how powerful words are.

Words can do great good. Indeed, how many of us heard the gospel through spoken words, or someone reading the Bible to us. In fact one of the key ways that I got saved, was I watched this movie over and over called “The Life of Jesus” which was a word for word translation of the gospel of John. I must’ve watched that movie one hundred times, loaded up on drugs, and beer, and then one night it finally dawned on me, that Jesus could save me. And the rest is history.

That’s how powerful words and speech are! They can bring great life.

It can also bring great destruction. Think back in your life, to a time when you heard someone say something terrible about you. Maybe it was during middle school or high school. Maybe it was a bully teasing you. Maybe it was a teacher who didn’t like you. Maybe it was even a parent, mom or dad, or a family member, who said terrible things to you. And they probably did that because their parents said the same things to them.

I can recall even to this day, moments when someone said something so terrible it was ingrained on my memory for life. They say sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me. Well, that isn’t true. They don’t break skin or tear bone, but they burn inside.

I remember during basketball practice some guy asked me what was wrong with my chest, I have a concave on my chest, from my birth, and from that day on I was so ashamed of my body, and how I looked.

I remember when a friend and I went up for a pass in gym class, and I came down and accidentally landed on top of him. And he got hurt. It was an accident, but several of my enemies took the opportunity to attack me, making it seem like I did it on purpose. In fact they attacked me in the locker room later. And one cupped his hand and smashed it against my ear.

I remember something else. Something I did. There was a handicapped kid who was in a wheel chair. And we would go and make fun of him. And I participated in it. I made fun of him, in that hallway. And I regret it. Thankfully Jesus has forgiven that in me.

Maybe it’s easy to remember times when people did it to us. But how often have we been the guilty parties? We see someone we don’t like, so we spread rumors. We blast them in the community. People have done it to us here, spread rumors about us, and then people will leave the church, because they believe the rumors. Words, have, power.

Now what’s interesting is some of us don’t gossip or slander others or complain about others, but I know what you do do. You talk down to yourself. Your inner voice beats you up day and night. And that needs to stop. Some of the ways you talk to yourself, are ways you would never talk to your worst enemy. You need to speak to yourself, with the same love, and forgiveness and patience that you give others. When you let your inner voice go off shaming you, would you please stop, and ask yourself, would I talk to a friend like this? Then change that inner voice to encouragement, and reciting what God’s word says about you.

I am a child of God.

I’m redeemed by the blood.

My sins are gone, I’m holy in Christ.

God is my Father and he loves me.

That’s why it’s important to memorize little portions of scripture to repeat in our minds, or out loud, when we start having negative thoughts. When you start thinking, whats the point of life, I should just go sin, block that and say no, I am born again of the Spirit. I’m destined for paradise. I’m holy as God is holy. Change that internal dialogue.

Gossip is very tempting you guys. Even at training in Chicago, when I was at seminary, certain friends would gossip, and part of me loved to listen to it, to hear private things about people, and then laugh and mock them. But as soon as I left, I would feel upset with myself, so ashamed, and so convicted by the Holy Spirit. Gossip can seem fun at the time, but later we see the damage it does.

So here’s the rule I try to live by. And some of you have heard this from me. If I hear gossip or hear a conversation heading in that direction, I’ll just jump in and say, “That’s over, that issue has been dealt with, we’re gonna pray for them, and let’s move on.” Or simply, “Let’s not gossip, let’s talk about something else.” Cut that off. I don’t want to hear it. Let’s talk about something positive, something good.

But do you know what’s interesting about controlling or speech? Our scripture today said this: “We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. 4 And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. 5 In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.”

And in verse 2 it said, “2 Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.”

It’s interesting that it says if we can control what we say, we can control everything else about ourselves. So this is apparently the secret to learning self control. Learning to control our speech.

So when we talk about others, a friend or stranger, or another church, or even a political candidate, or local leader, we ought to consider the formula of Alan Redpath. During a time of difficulty in his ministry, he set up a formula for speaking of others or controversial issues:

“T--Is it true?
H--Is it helpful?
I--Is it inspiring?
N--Is it necessary?
K--Is it kind?

If what I am about to say does not pass those tests, I will keep my mouth shut! And it worked!”

I want to touch on one point just briefly about controlling the tongue and it’s in verse one of James 3. It says “not many of you should become teachers, because teachers will be judged more strictly.”

This verse makes me tremble before God. I know it by heart, James 3:1. I repeated it a lot during seminary to my fellow cadets. All of us will stand before God at the end of our lives and have to give an account, and answer for the decisions we made. And the things we said.

In fact Jesus himself said, “You must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. –Matthew 12:36

So every person in this room will have to answer for our words. And we’ll be judged. But for me, a minister, and Zachary, who teaches Bible, and Lexy, and others in here who become Bible teachers or pastors or other ministry leaders, we will be judged more strictly. We will be judged by a higher standard. Because God called us to share his word, and if we didn’t do it right, or taught false doctrine, or only spoke on the feel good verses, we will be in a lot of trouble.

Jump down to James 3, verses 8 through 10 which say, “The tongue is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth.”

And maybe that’s where you’re at right now. You’re learning to be encouraging. You’re using words to bless people and bless God. But then you’re also later on using words to curse others, and mock others, and using your words to complain and argue.That’s not good my friends. Let’s put those old ways aside, because they are dead and gone with our old selves. And let’s put on the new self in Christ Jesus, speaking good and not evil.

But I must confess brothers and sisters, I sinned in my words just recently. I was talking to a good friend of mine, and she shared with me about something terrible she did recently. And I spoke harshly to her about what she did. And she became very angry with me. And later I realized, I was right, but I was too harsh, and too mean spirited about it. So I apologized to her. And I also asked God’s forgiveness for what I’d done. And What’s what we’re supposed to do. James 3 says we all slip up in many ways. The point is that we recognize the mistake, we make it right, we get with God and ask forgiveness, and then we do better in the future.

In conclusion we see the final section of James 3, which my Bible titles “True Wisdom comes from God.” And really that’s what verses 1 through 12 were talking about, being wise with our words. And this section concludes with a call to live humbly, honorably, doing good works. And it says if you really understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life. It challenges us to not live in bitter jealousy, or selfish amibition, or boasting, or lying, because those things are demonic. Evil.

Verse 17 & 18 say, “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”

The final passage says that we are to be called “peacemakers.” So it says that we’ll spend our lives going from place to place, planting seeds of peace in others lives, and then having planted those seeds, we will gather the harvest later on in life, of righteousness. Of a beautiful holy life. We’ll see those seeds that we planted across Owosso, across Durand and Caledonia and Corunna, and Perry, years later, we’ll see people who we helped, who we encouraged, and we’ll see how they helped others, and how those good deeds spread out everywhere, to more and more people until thousands of lives were affected by our actions of living lives of being peacemakers. What a glorious way to live, let’s all live that way, using our words to spread goodness and faith, and love and truth. Alwayss, because that will make the world a better place. Amen! Hallelujah!