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Summary: The one mark that Christ said would distinguish His followers is the love they have for each other. We have shown a different picture. As a church we must stop hurting each other. We must learn to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

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Harmless

Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

Introduction: The one mark that Christ said would distinguish His followers is the love they have for each other (John 13:35). Yet the history of the church has demonstrated to the world quite a different picture. Paul’s Pastoral epistles deal with a myriad of conflict and controversy among believers. As a church we must stop hurting each other. We must learn to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

I. Wise as serpents

A. Wise - intelligent, prudent, mindful of one's interests

B. Romans 16:19b “I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.”

C. Wisdom as to the Wiles of the Devil

1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

D. Wisdom as to the Will of God

Romans 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

E. Wisdom as to the Way to Live as the body of Christ

1 Timothy 3:15 “I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

II. Harmless as Doves

A. New Testament Greek for ' harmless ' - akeraios {ak-er'-ah-yos} unmixed, pure, without a mixture of evil, free from guile.

B. Galatians 5:14-15 “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!”

C. In our Speech

1. James 3:2, 5-6 “For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body... Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.”

2. Words can hurt. We must learn to be harmless in our speech.

3. Gossiping – Proverbs 18:8 “The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body.

a. I am more deadly than the screaming shell of the cannon. I win without killing. I tear down homes, break hearts, wreck lives. I travel on the wings of the wind. No innocence is strong enough to intimidate me, no purity pure enough to daunt me. I have no regard for truth, no respect for justice, no mercy for the defenseless. My victims are as numerous as the sands of the sea and often as innocent. I never forget and seldom forgive. My name is Gossip. --Morgan Blake

b. Proverbs 16:28 “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.”

c. "That which is everybody's business is nobody's business." - Issak Walton

d. DEFINITION: A gossip is one who can give you all the details without knowing all of the facts.

e. Proverbs 26:20 (NLT) “Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.”

4. Inappropriate or Foolish Jesting –

a. Ephesians 5:4 “Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks”

b. Jesting – that which is intended to be humorous but is often silly or inappropriate.

c. Sometimes we find ourselves speaking nothing more than gibberish. Our jesting, which may not start with any evil intent or maliciousness but at times can cut sharply, is dangerous. The best thing for us to do is to set a watch on our tongues and to avoid foolish talk and jesting.

5. Criticism

a. James 4:11a (HCSB) “Don't criticize one another, brothers. He who criticizes a brother or judges his brother criticizes the law and judges the law.”

b. There are those who pride themselves on their candor, and it often degenerates into brutality. One such man said to John Wesley once, "Mr. Wesley, I pride myself in speaking my mind; that is my talent." "Well," said John Wesley, "the Lord wouldn't mind if you buried that! - Griffith Thomas

c. Matthew 7:1-5 " Judge not that you be not judged. For by the same standard you judge, you shall be judged; and with the measure you mete it out, it shall be meted out to you.... You hypocrite, first cast out the beam in your own eye, and then you shall see clearly to cast out the speck from your brother’s eye"

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