Saturday, April 24, 2010

Truthful Words

Satan is the father of lies: "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies" (John 8:44). Just as God's nature is truth (Titus 1:2), so Satan's nature is falsehood. It was by false witness that Satan tempted man into ruin.

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" 2 And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' " 4 Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. ―Genesis 3:1-6

At the root of every sin is a lie. "For out of the heart come forth evil thoughts...false witness, railings: these are the things which defile the man" (Matt. 15:19-20).

The truth is simple; the lie is complicated. We don't trip when telling the truth but managing a lie can get out of control. The truth is easy to remember; the lie involves too many fabricated details. Thus, the false witness frequently stumbles and is revealed. "He who utters truth shows forth righteousness, but a false witness deceit.... The lip of truth shall be established forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment" (Proverbs 12:17, 19).

God's word is always consistent with God's actions. We expect to see God act in a consistent way with His words. Since God's words and actions are consistent with one another, we say that God is trustworthy. Likewise, a man's words are indicative of his trustworthiness. You are as good as your word. A man who would lie would probably steal. In other words, a false witness cannot be trusted in any area of life. The so-called "little white lies" that we are prone to tell are also a reflection of our character. If you cannot be trusted in the little things, then why should you be trusted in the big things? The righteous man is described in Psalm 15 as one who "swears to his own hurt, and does not change."

Deception is lying to others and self-deception is lying to yourself; convincing yourself of a falsehood. Selfishness motivates sinners to believe what they want to believe about themselves. This is often done to justify some desire, attitude or action, and so, we spin the truth (which is a lie), in order to excuse ourselves. We engage in a cover-up. Truth loves the light, the lie loves the darkness.

Truthful words are essential to healthy relationships. "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" (Ex. 20:16; Dt. 5:20; Matt. 19:18). The tongue is our interface with the world. "For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart" (Matt. 12:34). We are called to "speak the truth in love" to one another (Eph. 4:15). "You shall not...lie one to another" (Leviticus 19:11). The power and character of your words either builds or destroys, "A man who bears false witness against his neighbor is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow" (Proverbs 25:18). "You shall not take up a false report; put not your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness" (Exodus 23:1). "Wherefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth each one with his neighbor, for we are members one of another" (Ephesians 4:25). "Lie not one to another, seeing that you have put off the old man with his doings" (Colossians 3:9).

"There are six things which Jehovah hates, yes seven which are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue...a false witness who utters lies" (Proverbs 6:16-19). Be scrupulous in what you say. Your word is one of the precious possessions you have. Treasure it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Flattering Words

Flatter: to compliment excessively and often insincerely, especially in order to win favor.

Flattery is often born out of our desire to please others or to make a good impression. It goes beyond the truth; it's not your candid, honest opinion of the person to whom you speak. You end up saying more than you can say with the truth. They might appear to be kind words but they have an ulterior motive. Flattering words often hide evil. "He who hates, disguises it with his lips, and lays up deceit within himself; when he speaks kindly, do not believe him, for there are seven abominations in his heart" (Pr. 26:24-26).

Flattery does harm to the one who is being flattered, especially if it comes often or comes from someone close, or from several people. "A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it, and a flattering mouth works ruin" (Pr. 26:28). If you continue to feed people with flattering words they might come to crave them or begin to believe them to be true. The words of honest friends might now be rejected in light of the flattery that has surrounded them and thereby the flatterer works his ruin. Most of us are susceptible to some forms of flattery because we want to think well of ourselves. Yet flattery is ultimately an assault on our integrity. "If you talk to a man about himself he will listen for hours!" We should be free to genuinely and truthfully praise and thank people for their gifts and services but we may not transgress the boundaries of truth.

God is listening to all of our words, including the idle words and the flattering words, and He will respond to what we have to say: "The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips and the tongue that speaks proud things" (Psalm 12:3).

1 Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases!

For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.

2 They speak idly everyone with his neighbor;

With flattering lips and a double heart they speak.

3 May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,

And the tongue that speaks proud things,

4 Who have said,

"With our tongue we will prevail;

Our lips are our own;

Who is lord over us?" (Psalm 12:1-4)

The Apostle Paul tells the Thessalonians, "For neither at any time did we use flattering words" (1 Thess 2:5). The Gospel does not do flatter men. Instead of telling an audience how good they are, the Bible tells them how bad they are and how good Christ is! The Gospel goes on to say that when a person trust in Christ, then they too become as worthy as He―clothed in His righteousness―and when that happens, no one needs someone to tell them how good they are because they know and acknowledge that any goodness they have is due to Christ within them and Jesus gets the glory and praise.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

“Tea Party” Prayer

I had the opportunity to lead the invocation at our local "Tea Party Rally" yesterday:

Our heavenly Father, we bow before You today in prayer, not as a ceremonial token, nor as a last resort, but rather to acknowledge our utter dependence on You and Your grace. By Your judgments You have awakened us and made us aware of the folly and the dangers that surround us. We admit that we ourselves have been guilty of much that has brought these conditions to bear, and we know that only by Your gracious and merciful relief do we have any hope of being spared the full weight of Your just judgment. We have been repeatedly and often blessed by Your kind providence and provision and thus owe You our unreserved humble allegiance and service. We have witnessed many proofs that You govern the affairs of men and that not even a sparrow can fall to the ground without Your notice, and that by Your mighty hand nations are lifted up and taken down.

Many of us who have gathered here today bear the burden of our own sins, which have contributed to our national sins. We have forgotten to worship You and serve You with gladness; we have squandered Your blessings and made ourselves slaves by our own debts. We have compromised our morality, and tolerated perversions and even the slaughter of the innocent. We have not raised our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord but have willingly sacrificed them to the idols of our age.

Heavenly Father, we ask for forgiveness, direction and guidance. Your Word says, "Woe to those who call evil good." And yet, by our silence we have allowed such evil, and during our silence our country has forgotten her way. Have mercy on us, O God, and grant us repentance from our sins. We plead with You to raise up leaders of integrity who will rule with righteousness and without fear. Prosper those who are already serving in this way and bring down all those who oppose Your law. Teach us, O Lord, to rely on Your strength and to accept our responsibilities toward You and our neighbors; that we might elect trustworthy and godly leaders and make wise decisions for the well-being of our society; that we may serve You faithfully in our generation and honor Your holy Name. For Yours is the kingdom and You are exalted as head above all nations.

Now, O God, cause us who are called by Your name, to humble ourselves, and pray and seek Your face and turn from our wicked ways, so that You will hear from heaven and forgive our sins and heal this land." In the name of Him to whom all the nations must come, the King of all kings, and the Lord of all lords, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Guidelines Concerning Accusations

NOTE: This is a piece I wrote in 2004.

Pastors and elders are frequently in the position of receiving information about other people. Sometimes negative information is coming from two or more directions. Everyone one wants us to "take their word for it," but biblical justice requires much more than that. What we have heard or read is not the same thing as what we know. Pastors and elders, however, are not the only ones who find themselves in this position; we all "hear and read things," and we all receive bad reports. Below are some guidelines and counsel for anyone who receives a bad report against others, whoever they might be.

An accusation is not a conviction, but rather an opinion until proven with due process and by a legitimate authority (Matt. 18:15-2). "The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him" (Proverbs 18:17). It is typical for people to be prejudiced toward their own interest and thus they might even be blind to the spin they are giving to a story. Moreover, the person making the accusation might have some axe to grind that we are not aware of, or might not be reporting all the facts of the case, and unless we are in a position to justly evaluate all the relevant information we simply do not know enough to make godly judgments.

God has established civil, ecclesiastical and familial authorities to make lawful judgments regarding the crimes and/or sins of others. Such judgments are not left to individuals, though individuals might have their own, private opinions in the matter. When individuals second-guess the judgments of the legitimate authorities, then proclaim or publish their judgments, they arrogantly exalt their private opinions over the wisdom of legitimate authorities.

In legitimate courts there is a presumption of the innocence of the accused until proven guilty. Proof must meet biblical standards: "One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established. If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, then both men in the controversy shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you. And those who remain shall hear and fear, and hereafter they shall not again commit such evil among you" (Deut. 19:15-20).

These witnesses must be accountable to the appropriate authority, and must be in a position whereby they can be cross-examined. Thus, anonymous accusations must be rejected as unsubstantiated and considered not credible. Not all witnesses are to be believed: "And two men, scoundrels, came in and sat before him; and the scoundrels witnessed against him, against Naboth…" (1 Kings 21:13). Multiple, credible witnesses are required before even receiving an accusation against an elder: "Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses" (1 Tim. 5:19). If we do not have access to the appropriate witnesses then it is possible that we simply cannot reach a sound conclusion and the matter remains unsettled.

Those attempting to by-pass legitimate authorities and who spread accusations in order to harm those whom they accuse are in sin and their reports must not be received. To publish (i.e., spoken or written) unproven accusations against others is at best the sin of gossip, and if motivated by revenge or hatred, is malicious gossip. "He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip" (Prov. 20:19). "You shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness" (Ex. 23:1). "The simple believes every word, but the prudent considers well his steps." (Prov. 14:15).

We should not be cynics, but we must be godly skeptics. Biblical justice often requires setting aside our first impressions or prejudices, carefully investigating a matter where accusations have been made, and patiently pursuing the truth; it takes time to know people. In this way, righteousness is established, sin is exposed, and God is honored. Love is always rooted in truth and justice, and is tempered by mercy and grace; mercy and grace cannot come apart from truth and justice.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Gossiping Words

Ephesians 4 calls upon us to "speak the truth in love," implying that it is possible to speak the truth without love. For example, a gossip may speak the truth about another person. Such truth-telling, however, has as its purpose the harming of our neighbor and is therefore sin. "And withal they learn also to be idle, going about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not" (1 Tim. 5:13); "He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter" (Pr. 11:13); "A perverse man scatters abroad strife, and a whisperer separates best friends" (Pr. 16:28).

"He who spares his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool, when he holds his peace, is counted wise. (Pr. 17:27-28); "For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention ceases. As coals are to hot embers, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to inflame strife. (Pr. 26:20-21). Whoever gossips to you will gossip of you. While the technology might be neutral—men are not.

Now, instead of a gossip being able to ruin a reputation in a local community, the world-wide-web can now spread malice to the globe. This gives a man a megaphone with which he can sin. All you need is a keyboard and a service provider. One recent hack proudly announced that he had reached 3,000 new people in one month. So, is this a good thing? Does the multiplication of sin make this a better world?

And we must remember, for gossip and slander to do its murderous work, there must also be recipients. It takes two to tango, and it takes two to gossip. We now have millions who feed regularly on this degrading roughage. There are many who regularly eavesdrop (or lurk) in the blogosphere. I trust that none of you are engaged in this form of gossip.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Slanderous Words

Slander is a malicious, false, and defamatory statement or report. It carelessly or intentionally fabricates a lie or distorts, twists, spins or otherwise misrepresents the truth about someone else. It is a form of bearing false witness. Slander is murder with words. "With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor" (Pr. 11:9). "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" (Ex. 20:16). It is morally unlawful to speak falsely against your neighbor. The force of this commandment is to promote love toward our neighbors. "A truthful witness saves lives, but he who speaks lies is treacherous" (Pr. 14:25).

God will not allow the false witness to escape."A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will not escape" (Pr. 19:5). "Who shall dwell with Jehovah?... He who slanders not with his tongue...nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor" (Psalm 15:3). "He who utters a slander is a fool" (Proverbs 10:18). "He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil and his lips that they speak no guile" (1 Peter 3:10).

Question 144: What are the duties required in the ninth commandment?

The duties required in the ninth commandment are, the preserving and promoting of truth between man and man, and the good name of our neighbor, as well as our own; appearing and standing for the truth; and from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully, speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all other things: Whatsoever; a charitable esteem of our neighbors; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name; sorrowing for, and covering of their infirmities; freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces, defending their innocency; a ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admit of an evil report, concerning them; discouraging talebearers, flatterers, and slanderers; love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requires; keeping of lawful promises; studying and practicing of: Whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report.

Question 145: What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment?

The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbors, as well as our own, especially in public judicature; giving false evidence, suborning false witnesses, wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause, outfacing and overbearing the truth; passing unjust sentence, calling evil good, and good evil; rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous, and the righteous according to the work of the wicked; forgery, concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calls for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others; speaking the truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful and equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of truth or justice;speaking untruth, lying, slandering, backbiting, detracting, tale bearing, whispering, scoffing, reviling, rash, harsh, and partial censuring; misconstructing intentions, words, and actions; flattering, vainglorious boasting, thinking or speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others; denying the gifts and graces of God; aggravating smaller faults;hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins, when called to a free confession;unnecessary discovering of infirmities; raising false rumors, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defense; evil suspicion; envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any, endeavoring or desiring to impair it, rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy; scornful contempt, fond admiration; breach of lawful promises; neglecting such things as are of good report, and practicing, or not avoiding ourselves, or not hindering: What we can in others, such things as procure an ill name.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Angry Words

God's anger is always the appropriate and just response to wickedness: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom. 1:18); "But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who 'will render to each one according to his deeds'" (Rom. 2:5-6).

God's wrath is never misguided. He is, therefore, capable of properly manifesting anger. Man, however, with his sinful nature, is not so capable. His anger is often misguided and misdirected because of ignorance, false presumptions, misunderstanding, etc. "A quick-tempered man acts foolishly" (Pr. 14:17).

Now is possible for man to "be angry and not sin" (Eph. 4:26-27), but the fact that this warning not to sin follows so closely behind the permission to be angry tells us that it's very easy to cross the line. The text goes on to tell us "do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil." God even sets strict boundaries on righteous anger.

Examples of biblical anger include: Paul's confronting Peter because of his wrong example in Galatians 2:11-14, David's being upset over hearing Nathan the prophet sharing an injustice (2 Samuel 12), And Jesus' anger over how some of the Jews had defiled worship at God's temple in Jerusalem (John 2:13-18). Notice that none of these examples of anger involved self-defense, but a defense of others or of a principle.

Anger turns to sin when it is selfishly motivated ("for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God" ―James 1:19-20); when God's goal is distorted (1 Cor.10:31), or when anger is allowed to linger (Eph. 4:26-27). Instead of using the energy generated by anger to attack the problem at hand, it's the person who is attacked. Ephesians 4:15-19 says we are to speak the truth in love and use our words to build others up, not allowing corrupt or destructive words to pour from our lips (Eph. 4:32).

We can handle anger biblically by seeing God in the trial. This is especially important when people have done something to offend us. James 1:2-4, Romans 8:28-29, and Genesis 50:20 all point to the fact that God is sovereign and in complete control over every circumstance and person that enters our path. Nothing happens to us that He does not cause or allow.

We can handle anger biblically by making room for God's wrath. This is especially important in cases of injustice, when "evil" men abuse "innocent" people. Genesis 50:19 and Romans 12:19 both tell us to not play God. God is righteous and just, and we can trust Him who knows all and sees all to act justly (Gen.18:25). We can handle anger biblically by not returning evil for good (Gen. 50:21; Rom. 12:21). This is key to converting our anger into love. As our actions flow from our hearts, so also our hearts can be altered by our actions (Matt. 5:43-48).

Will Rogers said, "People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing." Slow down; bite your tongue. "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city" (Pr. 16:32); "Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools" (Eccl. 7:9); "So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath" (James 1:19); "A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness" (Pr. 15:1-2).

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Weasel Words

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks….But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:34b, 36-37).

Vows, contracts, promises, and other informal commitments are the main ways we enter into and maintain relationships. Psalm fifteen describes the character of the man who may dwell with the Lord and one of those key character traits is described in verse 4: "He who swears to his own hurt and does not change." In the book of James we have a similar admonition: "But let your "Yes" be "Yes," and your "No," "No," lest you fall into judgment." In other words, a man's character is only as good as his word. Just as God's words and God's actions are perfectly consistent with one another, so too, He expects the same from us. When we make formal or informal commitments, explicit or implied, we either keep or break them (even when it is difficult); this reveals a great deal about who we are.

When the heat is on, when it's time to write the check or deliver the goods, we're sometimes tempted to conveniently forget or to try and weasel out. We didn't really mean what we said. Many politicians seem to be professional weasels who know how to use "weasel words" or "spin" as constant cover. "Weasel words" is an informal term for words and phrases that, while communicating a vague or ambiguous claim, create an impression that something specific and meaningful has been said. Weasel words manage to vaguely imply meaning far beyond the claim actually made. The expression "weasel word" derives from the egg-eating habits of weasels. An egg that a weasel has sucked will look intact to the casual observer, while actually being empty. Thus, words or claims that turn out to be empty upon analysis are known as "weasel words." A person says what they need to in order to get what they want at the moment. It depends on what the definition of "is" is. I am reminded of the restaurant that had a sign that read "All You Can Eat for $6." Sounding like a great deal, the fellow ordered the plate. When he asked the waitress for a second plate she informed him that it would be an additional $6. The customer pointed to the sign and said "I thought it was all you could eat for $6"? The waitress replied, "Well, sir, that is all you can eat for $6."

Now most of us have been guilty at one time or another of such "forgetfulness" or weasely activity as it pertains to our commitments. "If I had known then what I know now, perhaps I wouldn't have made such a commitment." Now self-conscious weasels are one thing, but we can all be tempted to be occasional weasels, excusing ourselves and pretending that we never really meant what we said or that we were, perhaps, misunderstood. Pride can certainly keep us from facing our own slipperiness. Nevertheless, the sooner we own our failures in this area the sooner we can restore our good name. The greatest inheritance a person can leave to their family and friends is their character: "She always did what she said she would do…even when it hurt." The godly man or woman doesn't look for loopholes; they look to dwell with the Lord, for they are steadfast in all their ways. Psalm fifteen ends with this promise: "He who does these things shall never be moved."

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Corrupt Words

"Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" -Ephesians 4:29-30

While God created us to use our mouths to praise Him, man in his rebellion finds pleasure is using his mouth for the very opposite. Our culture is filled with words that are dirty, nasty, foul, lewd, vulgar, profane, obscene, and blasphemous. Sin has corrupted our words because sin has corrupted our hearts. It's now cool to be crude. It's a public demonstration that God is not going to tell me what to do; it's defiance against His authority. Men love to take legitimate words out of their context e.g., hell, damnation, God, Jesus Christ, and use them in vain or casual ways. In their original context these are words that unnerve the unbeliever, and so by placing them in a lighter context he hopes to get comfortable with them.

Other words corrupt and mock that which God calls holy and good (e.g., sex, family, and authority), while some words are simply base and nasty. Such expletives have become so common that we have grown accustom to them, but God is still offended. Little men, with little vocabularies constantly reveal their smallness. Even some professing Christians profane their baptisms with careless and corrupt words. "But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4
neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks" (Eph. 5:3-4).

The great preacher, George Whitefield observes:

The damned devils, and damned souls of men in hell, may be supposed to rave and blaspheme in their torments, because they know that the chains wherein they are held, can never be knocked off; but for men that swim in the river of God's goodness, whose mercies are renewed to them every morning, and who are visited with fresh tokens of his infinite unmerited loving-kindness every moment; for these favorite creatures to set their mouths against heaven, and to blaspheme a gracious, patient, all-bountiful God; is a height of sin which exceeds the blackness and impiety of devils and hell itself.

Whitefield continues:

If these things be so, and the sin of profane swearing, as hath been in some measure shown, is so exceeding sinful, what shall we say to such unhappy men, who think it not only allowable, but fashionable and polite, to "take the name of God in vain;" who imagine that swearing makes them look big among their companions, and really think it a piece of honor to abound in it? But alas! little do they think that such a behavior argues the greatest degeneracy of mind and fool-hardiness, that can possibly be thought of. For what can be more base, than one hour to pretend to adore God in public worship, and the very next moment to blaspheme his name; indeed, such a behavior, from persons who deny the being of a God, (if any such fools there be) is not altogether too much to be wondered at; but for men, who not only subscribe to the belief of a Deity, but likewise acknowledge him to be a God of infinite majesty and power; for such men to blaspheme his holy name, by profane cursing and swearing, and at the same time confess, that this very God has expressly declared, he will not hold him guiltless, but will certainly and eternally punish (without repentance) him that taketh his name in vain; is such an instance of fool-hardiness, as well as baseness, that can scarcely be paralleled. This is what they presume not to do in other cases of less danger: they dare not revile a general at the head of his army, nor rouse a sleeping lion when within reach of his paw. And is the Almighty God, the great Jehovah, the everlasting King, who can consume them by the breath of his nostrils, and frown them to hell in an instant; is he the only contemptible being in their account, that may be provoked without fear, and offended without punishment? No; though God hear long, he will not bear always; the time will come, and that too, perhaps, much sooner than such persons may expect, when God will vindicate his injured honor, when he will lay bare his almighty arm, and make those wretches feel the eternal smart of his justice, and show his power and name that they have so often vilified and blasphemed. Alas! what will become of all their bravery then? Will they then wantonly sport with the name of their Maker, and call upon the King of all the earth to damn them any more in jest?

Since the Bible teaches us that corrupt words are extremely offensive to God, and since they are also so commonly used around us, then it is our Christian duty to show our disapproval and to seek to stop such vial behavior. And certainly, no such words should proceed from our mouths (or keyboards). We owe this duty both to God and to our neighbors (since we do love them). We are obligated to honor and defend the name of God and His word, and we must likewise seek to prevent the ruin of our neighbor.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Idle Words

"And I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account of it on the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned" (Matt. 12:3637).

Jesus knew very well about our useless chatter. That is what He was referring to when He spoke of "every idle word." The Greek word for "idle" literally means to be "without work" (for instance, unemployed: Matt. 20:3, 6)―and thus to be careless and unfruitful (e.g., 2 Pet. 1:18). Words which are "idle" are those which are not intended to accomplish anything; they are vacuous, not spoken with any serious intent. Idle words are simply an amusement. And God's scrutiny of our behavior will be so thorough, according to the Savior, that even these little amusements in our speech will come under the microscope of God's omniscient judgment.

Do you talk too much? Are your words truthful? Are they harsh, malicious, uncharitable, kind, humble, careless, cautious, fair, foolish, boastful, honest, sincere? Christ is concerned about your every idle word. Answering such questions as these is, for every spiritually sensitive believer, a painful, humbling and convicting exercise. James understood all too well, writing in his epistle "all of us stumble in many ways, but if anyone is never at fault in what he says, then he is fully mature and able to bridle his whole body also" (3:2).

The fact is that the tongue is set on fire by hell, and no man can tame it (Jas. 3:6, 8). Only the gracious, powerful, regenerating and sanctifying work of God can accomplish that. We desperately need the one who Scripture calls "the Word" of God (John 1:1) to forgive our idle words and place wholesome words in our mouths. May God be pleased to grant us, His people, mouths which have been purified and redirected to promote His praise and do good to our fellow men―to turn, by His mercy, from our vain verbal amusement to sincere and sanctified patterns of speech.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Revealing Words

The way in which we speak, according to Christ, is symptomatic of the kind of underlying character we have in God's eyes. As such this is a fair indicator which our awesome Judge will use to evaluate us. Just a few verses before Jesus had explained this principle: "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (12:34). The words which we use and the manner in which we use them reflects the spiritual condition of our innermost hearts. The same insightful but indicting truth about us was repeated by Jesus elsewhere in Matthew's gospel when He said, "The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these are what make a man unclean" (15:18).

So then, have you ever stopped to think about the kinds of things which come forth from your own mouth? Just listen to yourself. Imagine a tape recorder hung around your neck and picking up every single thing you say. You have amused yourself and others, filling up so much time talking, but playing back the tape wouldn't be very amusing, wouldn't you confess? Notice this:

Our sin and shame is not simply found in the "serious" comments we have meant to communicate; those things we gave plenty of reflection and communicated with sincerity (in which there is already abundant reproach), but all the more in our "idle words": the trifles, the flippant notations, the merely passing remarks, the little "white lies," the insincere promises, the selfserving flatteries, the comic sarcasms, the "Iwasonlykidding" comments.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Powerful Words

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made" (John 1:1-3); "Then God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light" (Gen 1:3); "…who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power…" (Heb. 1:3).

Words are symbolic of thought, intent and action. Words are a form of behavior. God's words are powerful. Moreover, God's words and God's actions are perfectly consistent with His character. In fact, His words are a sort of transcript of His character. As His words go forth they change the world; creating new things and sustaining old things and even resurrecting the dead.

As creatures who are made in the image of God, and having been given the unique ability of language, our words are also powerful. They too are forms of behavior that reveal our character. Our words can edify or wound. Violent words are a form of violence; soothing words are a form of comfort. The old saying, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but word's can never harm me," is false.

Words have the power to bless and the power to curse. Wicked men "sharpen their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows—bitter words" (Ps. 64:3). Word's have the power to impart the fear of the Lord and knowledge, understanding and wisdom (Pr. 2:1-7). Word's accomplish actual righteousness or else they commit actual sins. The quality of our words has the power to affect a situation: "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (Pr. 15:1).

The word preached is especially powerful, since it is men speaking the Word of God. The Apostle Paul writes to the church, "For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe" (1 Thess. 2:13).

Sitting under the Word of God has a powerful impact on our lives. Just as "By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible" (Heb. 11:3), So too, "those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred" (Matt. 4:20). This powerful word begets us,

having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because

 "All flesh is as grass,

And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.

The grass withers,

And its flower falls away,

But the word of the Lord endures forever." Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you. 1 Peter 1:23-25

Moreover, the word that begat us also sustains us: "Man lives not by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). This same word works in us all the way to the core: "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. 4:12). Having received the powerful word of God, it must now to reside in us and pour forth from us to continue its mighty work: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him" (Col. 3:16-17).

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


If we're talking about the amusements with which we fill our lives, aiming to entertain ourselves, we really shouldn't overlook talking itself. That's the biggest―and often emptiest―form of amusement we use to occupy ourselves. We're always talking. A lot of what we say is good and necessary of course. God gave mankind the gift of speech to have fellowship with Him, so that we might know Him better and respond to Him with prayer and praise. Advanced linguistic ability places man above the lower creation and facilitates dominion over it. Interpersonal communication is crucial to our life in community―indeed, to what we consider civilization itself. The power, usefulness, and even beauty of words can be simply remarkable.

But in the fallen world―and especially in our spiritually barren culture―what God has granted to man as a blessing has also become a tremendous curse. Both David and Paul assessed the moral quality of the way sinners talk: "Their throat is an open sepulcher: with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips" (Ps. 5:9; Rom. 3:13). Man's casual banter is often deadly and a display of death. Standing before the holy presence of God, Isaiah's woeful conviction of sin focused immediately on this: "I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips" (6:5).

Wise men of old already knew that "in the multitude of words there is no lack of transgression, but he who refrains his lips does wisely" (Prov. 10:19). There is just far, far too much talk that pours forth from the mouths of sinners. And when Solomon penned this proverb, they didn't yet have junk mail, telephones, message machines, televisions, photocopiers, faxes and email to facilitate the even greater volume of words which floods our lives today! From the typical family home of multiple phone lines or TV sets to the artificial community of computer cyberspace, you can now talk or listen to words all day without stop.

Reforming the way we use our words is a key to sanctification. The mouth is so troublesome and sinful that, if it can be made more holy, so can other areas of our conduct. "For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a mature man, able also to bridle the whole body" (James 3:2). If Christian morality were more evident here, God would surely receive greater glory—not only among us, but also through us before the world. Disciples of Jesus Christ should stop and listen.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Lord’s Day Meditation – Easter Feast

Our gracious Redeemer, Savior, and Lord, You were lifted up upon a cross, and now have ascended to the highest heaven. You were a man of sorrows Who was crowned with thorns, and now, as the Lord of life, You are crowned with glory. You suffered the deepest of shame, the height of agony, and the cruelest death. Yet now, there is none that is exalted higher, no life more glorious, no advocate more effective. You have triumphed over all Your enemies. Indeed, they have all been made Your footstool. What more could be done than what You have accomplished? Your death is our life. Your resurrection is our peace. Your ascension is our hope. Your intercession is our comfort. AMEN

"Christ the Lord is Risen Today" - Charles Wesley, 1707-1788

Christ the Lord is ris'n today, Alleluia!

Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!

Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!

Sing, ye heav'ns, and earth reply, Alleluia!

Love's redeeming work is done, Alleluia!

Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!

Death in vain forbids Him rise, Alleluia!

Christ has opened Paradise, Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!

Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!

Dying once He all doth save, Alleluia!

Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!

Foll'wing our exalted Head, Alleluia!

Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!

Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!

Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!

Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!

Hail the Resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

King of glory, soul of bliss, Alleluia!

Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!

Thee to know, Thy power to prove, Alleluia!

Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!