War of Words, Part 3

Bible Reading: Galatians 5:16-26

Matthew 12:34, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” 

James wrote that “But no man can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). Years ago, I served in the US Navy aboard a submarine. There is a reason that there is a saying which speaks of “cursing like a sailor.” You can probably imagine the degree of complaining and cursing and vindictive speech that might exist in that underwater, sun-deprived, environment. My buddy, Darwin, and I once tried an experiment. We ventured to go through a day without complaining or speaking evil. Of course—you know what happened—as it wasn’t long until our tongues had their own way. We all know the truth of it! Human tongues cannot be tamed. Jesus traced the “tongue” problem to our hearts, saying, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:34-37).

The key, then, to having tongues that speak as they should, is to have a tongue that speaks according to our new nature in Christ.  We speak as Jesus would have us, when we speak not according to our human nature or fleshly tendencies, but according to the indwelling Spirit and the Word.  We still have the flesh; left to our own devices, we will speak accordingly.  Such speech is characterized by “enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions” (Galatians 5:20).  But by the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit (Christlike virtue), is born in us.  As we walk by the Spirit, our speech is consistent to who Christ is, and is characterized by “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7).  Likewise, Ephesians 5:18-19 and Colossians 3:16 speak to the worshipful and edifying words that characterize the lives of those whose hearts are “filled up” with the Spirit and the Word.

We live in a day where hateful words and insults fill the airwaves and too many conversations. And that’s sadly true in too many “Christian” homes and churches!  Even Christians toss fireworks into tinder dry regions. The fires started, then quickly spread to destroy relationships and dishonor God.  A raging firestorm exists in the spiritual realm—a raging firestorm set on fire by hell itself (James 3:6).  Are you a Firestarter or a firefighter?  We’ve got to stop with the insults and name-calling that are so commonplace in our day (Matthew 5:21-22; Ephesians 4:29) and focus instead on the living out and sharing the good news.  We are ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20-21).  We are His representatives!  Imagine an ambassador being sent out from our country to another.  How long would he last in that role if he only cursed and insulted his fellow ambassadors and the people of the country to whom he was sent?  As citizens of heaven, we ambassadors for Christ bear a message of reconciliation in the gospel.  Let’s share that and words that are always filled “with grace” (Colossians 4:6)! 

I remember how I once started a day in Uganda by singing to myself these words, “Take my lips and let it be, filled with messages from Thee.”  That was my prayer for that day—as it should be for every day—that the Spirit might do with my lips what I could never do on my own.  What a divine privilege, to be speak for God in truth and in love—words that heal, and not hurt.

Take my voice and let me sing always, only for my King
Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from Thee

Author: looking2jesus13

Having served as pastor at Lewis and Clark Bible Church, in Astoria, Oregon, for almost three decades, my wife’s cancer diagnosis led to my retirement and subsequent move to Heppner to be near our two grandchildren. I divide my time between caring for Laura and working as a part time hospice chaplain and spending time with family and spoiling my chocolate lab.

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