Text: Ephesians 4:29 – 5:2
By: Ken McKinley
I’m sure we’ve all heard the old saying, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.’ WRONG!
Sticks and stones may cause bruises, they may even break your bones, but those things can heal up. But hateful, harsh words can stay with a person for years and years, and sometimes even a lifetime.
Speech is a wonderful gift from God. Our ability to speak is so important to God that He designed a large portion of our brain activity to be involved in language skills. Something like 50% of the volume of our brain is involved in language skills. Knowing what to say, how to say it, articulation, voice inflection…
And the way that we handle our mouths is a reflection of the way we view God.
We’ve already gone over several of the things that Paul tells us we should put away because we are now in Christ. He’s told us that we should put away lying and tell the truth. He tells us we should put away sinful anger. But now he’s telling us to watch what we say and how we say it. The Puritans used to have a saying that went, “We know the various types of metals by their tinkling, and various types of men by their talking.”
The Bible says, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” This doesn’t just refer to obscene language, but it can also refer to cynicism, hurtful words, slanderous words – words that are untrue or meant to damage a persons reputation.
THREE PASTORS ILLUSTRATION
Drunk, Embezzler, Gossip.
When we use our words to hurt another person, when we speak with anger, or words to belittle another person, or when we use foul language, what we are doing is showing the world what’s in our hearts.
I’m also sure we’ve all heard the old saying, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” WRONG AGAIN! If you can’t say anything nice then check the condition of your heart and REPENT.
Paul ties the words we say in with our relationship with the Holy Spirit. Are you attacking other Christians with your words? If so you are attacking people God has chosen to be part of His family. To be grieved involves love. If someone you don’t love offends you, then you aren’t grieved, you’re angered. But if it’s someone you love who offends you, it breaks your heart.
You see, the same Holy Spirit that has sealed you has also sealed other believers for the day of redemption. But when our words are meant to hurt, or to tear a person down, we are attacking a person that has the Holy Spirit dwelling within them.
Paul goes on to tell us that we should put away bitterness, anger, wrath, clamor, and evil speaking.
And again Paul not only tells us what not to do, but what we are to replace those sinful things with. We are to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, and forgiving of one another. Kindness is the opposite of bitterness; instead of holding grudges, and looking to do damage to someone, it seeks to make amends, and to heal relationships.
Compassion or tenderheartedness is the opposite of rage and wrath. Instead of looking to hurt people and do them harm; tenderhearted people are always looking for ways to help people and show them kindness. Forgiveness covers all these things. And we should always be quick to forgive because we ourselves have been forgiven.
Every time we do not forgive we are putting ourselves in the place of God. Think about that for a minute; if God can forgive a person then who are we to say that we can’t?
I think that the problem we have is that we want God to start with the person who has offended us, rather than with us. We want God to make them change first, but it doesn’t happen that way. Jesus didn’t make you change before you were saved, He changes you after you are saved. Yes… it’s true, He doesn’t leave you in your old lifestyle, He expects change, we’ve already talked a lot about this, but even while you were yet a sinner, Christ died for you.
And so… all of our language and speech is a reflection of what’s really on the inside, whether that’s Christ, or self centeredness. Let me give you an example; if I get into an argument with my wife, it’s usually because we both think we are right about something. And so we use words to try and justify ourselves and show that we are right about something. Most people don’t say mean things just to be mean, they say them to either show that they are right about something, or to make themselves look better. And so often times our language is self centered and for self justification. And when we are in those types of situations, where we are tying to justify ourselves, or make ourselves look better than we are… it’s in those types of situations when the Gospel is farthest from us.
Did you ever stop to think why Jesus didn’t defend Himself against Pilate? It’s because He knew He was already justified in what He had done and in what He was doing.
So when we know who we are in Christ, there shouldn’t be any more need for us to feel like we have to justify ourselves before other people. God has already declared us just in His sight, because we are in His Son. So that need often arises from a misunderstanding of God’s forgiveness, or from sinful behavior that we are tying to either cover up, or make appear as if it were the right thing to do.
Remember Adam and Eve? “It was the woman you gave me.” “It was the serpent who tricked me.”
In chapter 5 Paul tells us that we should be imitators of God as dear children.
I remember when Leslie was about 3 years old I got one of the most shocking wake up calls of my life. MariJo and I were sitting in our living room watching a TV show and Leslie was playing in the floor. When all of a sudden she slid my shoes on her feet and said, “Look daddy! I’m wearing your shoes!” I smiled at her and told her how cute she looked but God used that incident to plant something in my heart; and that was that my children are going to grow and live their lives in the same manner that they see me live mine. In-other-words; on that day, God made it a reality to me that I should be the kind of parent that I want my children to grow up to be, because that’s what children do. They imitate their parents. And that’s what Paul is telling us to do here. To take a look at how God is, how God thinks, how God conducts His affairs, how God behaves, how God treats people, how God is. And once we see how God is, we should follow suit, because we are His children. We have been grafted into the vine. We are part of His family. And our behavior and our actions, and our attitudes reflect on Him to the world.
Paul says we are to walk in love – why? Because God so loved the world.
Our love should be sacrificial – why? Because He GAVE His only begotten Son…
The love that we have for our brothers and sisters in Christ should be the kind of love that first takes us to the Cross. It should be the kind of love that edifies and imparts grace. Not the kind that grieves the Holy Spirit. It should be the kind of love that puts away bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking.
This love is the kind where we die to ourselves, our agendas, and our selfishness so that we can live as God desires.
When we are doing this it’s easy to see that our words which are said to hurt people, or slander them or words that are evil or obscene… are actually some of the sins that sent Jesus to the Cross.
Paul says that we are supposed to be imitators of Jesus, and walk in love; and he says that this love that we are supposed to be walking in is the same sort of love that led Jesus to the Cross. It’s supposed to be sacrificial and real. And this love is to be evident, not only in the way we live our lives, and not only in our actions, but in our words as well. And not just the words we say in public, but the words we speak in private, when we are around our closest friends, or even when we pray.
I once heard a story about an old preacher who was facing a serious crisis; two of his closest friends came to comfort him and offered to pray for him. So the old preacher asked them, “How often do you pray and for how long?” The 1st friend replied, “I pray 4 times day for an hour at a time.” The second friend hung his head and said, “I only pray 2 times a day and for about 15 minutes each time.” The preacher nodded and then asked, “And what do you pray about when you do pray?” The first friend answered and said, “I pray that God would continue to give me health, wealth, happiness, and comfort. I pray that He would make my life peaceful and enjoyable, and that I wouldn’t encounter too many hardships. I pray for my family to get along and for my job to go well.” The second man answered and said, “I pray for the salvation of souls, for the safety and success of missionaries. I pray for God’s will to be done and for His kingdom to be fully realized. I pray for the sick and afflicted, and that I might be used in some form or fashion by God so that He might be glorified.” The preacher looked to the second friend and said, “I want you to pray for me in this crisis.”
Greater love has no man than this – that He lay down His life for His friends.
You see our love is to be self sacrificing, just like our Lords, and it is to be evident in our lives, our actions, our behavior, and our words. And in doing so we in turn honor the Lord and live out or faith in a way that is pleasing to God… which is our acceptable sacrifice unto the Lord.
INVITAITON AND CLOSING