Sermon for 9/20/2009
Ephesians 4:15- Speaking the Truth in Love
Jacqueline Bay- My son Zachary, 4, came screaming out of the bathroom to tell me he’d dropped his toothbrush in the toilet. So I fished it out and threw it in the garbage. Zachary stood there thinking for a moment, then ran to my bathroom and came out with my toothbrush. He held it up and said with a little smile, "We better throw this one out too then, ’cause it fell in the toilet a few days ago."
A. One of the most common problem areas in troubled marriages is a lack of communication. This situation is partly a product of our society, for many children grow up in homes where little constructive communication ever takes place. Family togetherness has degenerated to a joint television viewing; anyone who dares to say anything is told to keep quiet because the others cannot hear! The latest trend is for each family member to have his own TV, so that he can watch what he wants without distractions or interruptions. Much family communication is thus destroyed.
B. Another factor which contributes to the absence of family communication is our tendency to prevent our children from expressing their true feelings. We usually consider it more important to act and speak in a socially acceptable manner than to express our actual thoughts. Thus, after a child has made an especially embarrassing remark we may expect to hear his mother reply, “Junior, don’t ever say that again! What will people think?” We should certainly consider the feelings of others, but our undue concern about other people’s opinions encourages Junior to keep his innermost thoughts and feelings to himself, thereby avoiding the pain of being misunderstood and rejected. He thus learns to suppress communication.
C. Soon he enters the competitive world of school, and later of employment. Few people care about his thoughts or feelings; his performance is all that counts. He is accepted by his superiors only as long as be conforms to certain standards and produces a specific quality of work. His job security might be threatened if people could see inside and discover what he really thinks. So he learns to conceal what is there, to present a self-image which impresses people, one which hides his faults and weaknesses.
D. Then the inevitable happens—he finds himself attracted to a person of the opposite sex. He begins to open up, to share his inner feelings. His companion does the same, and it becomes a thrilling experience. At last they have each found someone who really understands, who accepts the other party for what he actually is. They find that they have much in common, that they were “made for each other.” When the preacher asks if they are able to communicate with each other, they say with confidence that this is one of their greatest strengths.
E. As the marriage wears on, however, they have less and less to talk about. The novelty is gone. As the pressures of the daily routine mount, communicating becomes an unpleasant experience. Tensions increase, misunderstandings occur, unkind words are spoken, and feelings are hurt. The disenchantment becomes unbearable. The more each expresses his opinion the more unpleasant the atmosphere becomes, until they revert to concealing their inner thoughts. Instead of growing in their knowledge and understanding of each other, with more and more of their lives shared in the oneness which God planned for them, they drift farther and farther apart.
F. A beautifully happy marriage is only possible when each partner knows how the other feels about the situations and issues that face them both. The same is true in the workplace, in the church or any place where we have relationships. Good relationships demand open lines of communication. We sometimes develop the bad idea that the best alternative to an argument is complete silence. We feel that we deserve a special reward if we bite our tongues in silence while someone else rants and raves. But closing the lines of communication really does not help. There is another alternative to an angry argument. It is sharing in love what is on our hearts! The Bible reveals not only the roadblocks to communication, but the pathways to communication as well! One short phrase in Ephesians 4:15 holds the key to effective communication in the home and in life: “speaking the truth in love.”
Thesis: How do we speak the truth in love?
I. Speaking the truth
A. We really need to focus on the truth. What is truth? Pilate asked the same question in his talk with Jesus Christ. The sad part about it was the truth was right before him. (John 14:6 NIV) Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life.
B. The truth came down as the Word and made his dwelling among us. But why?
C. The truth is we are all sinners. (Rom 3:10 NIV) As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one;(Rom 3:11 NIV) there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.(Rom 3:12 NIV) All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."(Rom 3:13 NIV) "Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit." "The poison of vipers is on their lips."(Rom 3:14 NIV) "Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness."(Rom 3:15 NIV) "Their feet are swift to shed blood; (Rom 3:16 NIV) ruin and misery mark their ways, (Rom 3:17 NIV) and the way of peace they do not know."(Rom 3:18 NIV) "There is no fear of God before their eyes."
D. (Rom 3:23-24 NIV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
E. (2 Cor 5:21 NIV) God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
F. How do we get rid of our sin? Believe, repent, confess, baptized, live for Jesus.
G. Good, now our sins, our depravity, our wickedness is all taken care of. Not completely. We have two natures within us, a sinful nature and a godly nature. After we come to Jesus Christ, we still must deal with sin. (1 John 1:9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
H. We must take our relationship with God seriously if we are to speak the truth. We must be completely honest with God and with ourselves. This is where it starts. (Psa 139:23-24 NIV) Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
I. We must read the Word and deal with the sins that we love. We must be honest, transparent with God. We must be honest with ourselves, no explanations, no excuses. This will spill out into our relationships with others. When our heart is not right with God it is hard to speak the truth.
J. I was sinning against a good friend of mine and also against God. I stuck with God and his Word and kept on praying and seeking in the midst of my sins. The Lord told me to tell that person what I was doing. It was difficult and that person was hurt, but my honesty lead to a better relationship with that person and with God.
K. Had a man come to the church one Sunday, he filled out a card and put it in the offering plate and I went to visit him. Saw him at a restaurant and visited with him. He and his wife had been through two painful church situations and his wife did not want to attend any church. Got to know them and they started attending. When I was forced to resign, I saw this man about a month after that event. He was upset and didn’t understand. I asked him if he was attending church anywhere and he said no. He and his wife were hurt again. Could all of this been avoided? Maybe, but we will never know. If someone had just spoken the truth to me so that I was prepared when the attack came, it might have made a difference. If I had just gotten the leaders together and said, "Come on guys, what is really going on?" It might have made a difference. However, no one was speaking the truth and so many got hurt.
II. Speaking the truth in love
A. Some people major on truth and some people major on love. Need a balance.
B. 4 different kinds of criticisms (Only one is helpful)
1. Untrue and unloving- These are deceitful attacks. Bullies! Two ways to respond- 1) Don’t respond (especially if it was done in a private setting) 2) Respond with the truth if done in a public setting.
2. Untrue but loving- Some people are mislead but caring. Respond with truth in a loving manner.
3. True but unloving- There are things out there that are true but don’t need to be said. “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” This is done not for the betterment of everyone. Look at vs. 15. “I pride myself on speaking my mind.” John Wesley said, “That is one talent that you need to bury.” (Prov 18:2 NIV) A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions. “But this is what the Bible says!” To quote Anne Lamott- “you don’t always have to chop with the sword of truth. You can point with it, too.”
4. True and loving
C. (Prov 15:23 NIV) A man finds joy in giving an apt reply-- and how good is a timely word! Look for the right time and the right place.
D. Make sure it is done for this person’s benefit. (Prov 27:6 NIV) Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.
E. A disagreement is not wrong. An argument can be good. If we learn from it and grow from it. Those couples who never have an argument usually do not have that deep of a relationship either. Everything is just surface. I pray that here at the church we don’t have surface relationships. I pray that we have friends here. Wounds from a friend can be trusted.
Conclusion and invitation:
a. (Prov 18:21 NIV) The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
b. Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.
c. (Prov 12:18 NIV) Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.