Let's Talk Week 1: Sticks and Stones
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Hmm. You know, that song isn’t really true. Words do hurt, more than people know. But they also can heal. I wonder why I haven’t thought about how powerful they can be? I mean, even God spoke the world into existence. He used His words to create. Not just action. Words. Could my words create things in others? In me?
Sometimes we forget how powerful words really are, so let’s dialogue. Let’s unpack this together. Let’s talk.
Well, good morning to everybody, and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. Can we give the creative team a round of applause? They do a really good job. All of the things that we do — and we’re going to have a different video every week for this series. They just do such a great job. You know, when we start a new series, you probably can see that I’m excited. And we are because these are not things that are just sort of thrown together. We sit in rooms, we talk about stuff, we talk about artwork, we come up with totally different ideas — I mean, three or four different things that we could look for our artwork. We talk about videos. We talk about bumper videos. We talk about if we’re going to do t-shirts or mugs or if we’re not going to do anything. We talk about the content. We talk about sermon series and how that sort of unfolds and how we’ll do videos and all of that stuff.
We do that because we are really, really, really committed to making sure that when you come here on the weekend you get something. That you leave here being equipped to go out and live the life that God has for you and me to live. And I believe with all of my heart — and I hope you feel the same way — that if you come to Grace and you’re here for a year or two, if you sit through all the series and you get involved in small groups and you get involved in ministry, there is no way in the world that you’re not going to be a different person at the end of that year or two years by coming here. We believe that with all of our heart. So, we’re really committed to that. You can give the Lord a hand clap. Nothing wrong with that. It’s good stuff.
So, I’m excited about this series. As we were talking about the series, I said to the creative team, “I really feel like we need to talk about the way we talk.” So, we’re talking about this months ago and all of this stuff. And then we launched the series about our words and the way that we talk and I don’t know that we could’ve launched it on a better weekend than all the things that are going on. So, for the first time, I was like, “Yes! We all heard from God.” You know? So, it was not a bad burrito this time.
But, you know, I think that we need to just take a moment here and think about the words that we say and the way that we talk. We may be really surprised over the next five or six weeks at what Scripture really has to say about our words. In fact, I think we’re going to be, at times, shocked at how in-depth Scripture is on these things. But I think that if you’re here today and maybe you’re not a Christian, you’ve shown up here to sort of see what’s going on, or maybe you’re not quite sure where you’re at with the Lord, or maybe you’ve been a Christian for many years, I think all of us would agree with this: When you look at the way we talk today in society, the way that we communicate today in society, the polarization that we have, the words that are used against one another or whatever, it leaves a lot to be desired in the way that we’re talking to one another.
What I don’t want to do is try to figure out how to accommodate that and fix that. What I want to do as a pastor is I want to go back to what does Scripture say about our words because that’s what really matters. But I suspect that we got to where we’re at because of a couple of things. I think that as I talk about this you’ll readily assess that it’s true. If we could go back 100 years, most people did not have the amount of words that are being spoken, and we didn’t have all the information that we have like we do today. We’re inundated with words. I mean, everywhere we go, somebody’s on TV. Do you remember? Some of you all maybe don’t remember this, but I do. I had a black and white TV screen when I was growing up in Kentucky. At midnight, they would play the Star Spangled Banner with the flag, and then the TV would just go blank for like six hours. Like Poltergeist. You know? And that was it. And now we’ve got 24 hours, 7 days a week of everybody talking about everything. I’m sorry to tell you you can’t talk about what’s going on without getting into opinion when you’re talking 24 hours, 7 days a week.
So, depending on where you sit and what you watch, you’re getting fed whatever it is that you get fed. But the point is we’re on our iPhones — in fact, the new iPhone software tells you how much time you’re using on the screen. They understand that it’s an epidemic. We’re staring in front of the screens, we’re reading stuff, we’re seeing stuff, we have words going on in our ears, we watch TV, we read stuff, we talk to one another. I mean, we just have words going everywhere. When you have words going everywhere, familiarity breeds contempt and you start to have to ask the question, “How do you get above the clutter, the noise of all of the words that we’re inundated with in society?”
I liken it to when you’re out in a big crowd and you’ve got your kids with you and one of your kids, all of a sudden, you realize is not there. All you can see is a sea of people talking. The only way you can get above that is to stand on something and yell or to do something crazy. Light yourself on fire. Whatever it is to get above the clutter. I think that’s where we’re at today. Everybody’s trying to get above the clutter because we use so many words that we’ve sort of lost the dignity and respect and civility that we should have. This might surprise you, or it may not surprise you, but there’s roughly 470,000 vocabulary words in Webster’s Dictionary, and the average person uses about 5,000 of those words on a daily basis. Some people have a vocabulary of 10,000, 15,000 or 20,000 words, but the average person’s using about 5,000 of those words a day.
This is what’s interesting. I’m by no means making a point here. I’m only sharing information, but everybody laughs when I say this as if I’m trying to make a point. I’m not. The average men use about 5,000 spoken words a day and women use about 10,000 words a day. Last night, it was great. I actually had a lady come up to me and say, “Pastor Chip, you won’t believe it. I actually heard a joke about exactly what you said today. You know why women have to speak double than men? Because they have to repeat themselves to the men.”
That being said, we do. But I think, to put this in perspective, all of us are, if we could hook a microphone up and it could tabulate the words as we speak, we’re all doing somewhere between 30- and 80-page books a day in spoken words. Now, that doesn’t include the spoken words you’re hearing. That’s just the ones your speaking. So, in the middle of all that, sometimes we need to stop for a moment, take a pause and ask, “Does God have anything to say about all these words that I’m saying?”
Because I can tell you this: There have been plenty of times that I’ve been talking — not even as a pastor, but just as a human being — in a group, to my family, my kids, to a friend or whatever, and you’re just talking. You’re not really thinking about what you’re saying. You’re just talking. And then, three weeks later, you realize that whatever you said really hurt somebody’s feelings. You realize, “Man, those words are really powerful.” Oftentimes we stop really thinking about our words. In fact, I don’t know that many Christians actually think about the words that they speak during the day.
So, what I want to do over the next five or six weeks here in this series is, one, to show that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a lie. Words do matter. They have a significant ability to affect people, to touch people, to bring life, to bring death, to bring hurt. So, since the words are so incredibly powerful, we need to know what Scripture says about how we use our words. I’m convinced, as a pastor and as a Christian, that because we have lowered the standard of communication so bad, we Christians are actually applauding and actually excited when people use words that would be absolutely unbiblical and would be so terrible if we were looking at what God has to say. And we’re enjoying hearing them because we have settled for the world rather than settling for what God says in His words about what we should be speaking out of our mouths.
So, we’re going to wade into this pool this weekend, then what we’re going to do is we’re going to really get involved over the next several weeks into some really, really strong stuff because I think everybody’s going to be shocked at how detailed God’s Word is about this unruly little beast that we have that resides within our mouth: Our tongue. And the things that we say and how we say it. I think it’s going to be a moment for all of us. This is not for the person sitting to your left or to your right. This is for us. If you’re watching via the internet, it’s not for your friend or your neighbor or your mom or your dad. This is for you. This is for all of us to wrestle with.
So, what we’re going to do is we’re going to look at a passage today, as we normally do, and I think that as we go through the passage we’re going to be fascinated. Because you may have read this passage before. I would dare say you’ve at least heard a verse out of this passage. I think you’re going to be surprised at the context of what is going on in this passage. And then what we’re going to do is look at a couple of practical things, then we’ll pray and get out of here. But we’re going to start a conversation that, hopefully, your small groups, at home, in your time with God and in your prayer life, this will be something that we can really talk about and see if we can’t figure out how to be more like what God wants us to be than the way the world talks.
So, in Matthew 12, as is pretty much normal, Jesus has a confrontation with the religion leaders; the Pharisees. It’s about the Sabbath and it’s about how that works and what’s going on. Jesus is doing things on the Sabbath that they say He shouldn’t be doing on the Sabbath and all of that. So, we’re in this passage. Then Matthew, in Matthew 12:22, uses a connecting word. He says, “Then.” So, we don’t know if that is consecutively right after or if he’s using a literary device to bring us to another passage to talk about something. We call these pericopes in scholarship. The pericope starts and ends and, even though it’s contextually still within the larger book, it sort of stands on its own. It’s a story that’s written. Many of these stories are written at the beginning and the end, sort of saying the same thing and working through that. So, we’re going to work through this passage.
It says, “Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him,”
I’m not going to spend a lot of times on this, but as I was putting this sermon together and looking at this passage, the word “brought” jumped out to me. I just want to make one statement here. You can just take that with you. It’s a little nugget here. Many, many people in the New Testament are healed, saved, ministered to because somebody brought them to Jesus. We don’t just need to be inviters. We need to be bringers. Okay? So, he brings him to Jesus and he’s blind and mute.
It says, “And he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw.”
Now, you may read that and think, “Okay. That’s great. Let’s move onto the next thing.” But if you were aware of the other Gospel writers that do record this story, the ones that do, they do not record that he is both blind and mute. Matthew is the only one that records that he’s both. This is significant because in this passage we’re going to see that what people see and what people say matter. The only people that really are seeing the right things and saying the right things are the people that have been brought to Jesus. So, our words and what we see matter. There’s a reason why Matthew has included both of the deficiencies of this person because he’s making a theological point as well as he’s making a point that Jesus actually, physically healed this person. But he’s not really concerned about telling you that He healed this person. He’s concerned that his readers understand something about Jesus and understand something about what we see and what we say, as we’re going to see as we go through this passage.
“And he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said,”
So, they saw the miracle and then they spoke.
They said, “‘Can this be the Son of David?’”
“Is it possible that this person that we just saw heal this man — is it possible He might be the one that was promised? Is it possible He might be the one that the Old Testament talks about? Is it possible? Could it be?” So, they saw something and they spoke.
Then we’re told, “But when the Pharisees heard it,” — what these other people were speaking. They saw the same miracle. They spoke too.
They said, “‘It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.’”
So, we have two groups of people that have seen something. They’ve all seen the same thing. But what they’re speaking is something drastically different. Now, notice here it says, “When the Pharisees heard the speech, they said, ‘No, no, no. This guys’ demon-possessed. That’s how He’s doing it.’”
But then Matthew records something really interesting, which is going to make sense as we go through this passage.
He says, “Knowing their thoughts,”
Now, you would’ve thought Matthew would’ve said, “Having heard what the Pharisees said, this is what Jesus said.” But he doesn’t say that. He says, “Knowing their thoughts,” because Matthew’s going to teach us something that the words that we speak are not just words. They’re a window to our soul. They come from what is inside of us.
He says, “Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?’”
He’s like, “Guys, think about what you just said. Think about what you just said. What you just said is crazy. I mean, if I’m possessed by a demon and I’m casting out demons, then his whole house is divided, this kingdom is divided. And if Satan’s casting out Satan, it’s not going to work.” He says, “So, let me ask you this:
“‘If I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.’”
“I mean, think about what you just said, guys. You just said I was possessed and I’m doing all this stuff because I’m possessed. There’s no way in the world that makes any sense, but you’re not saying it just to say it.”
They’re saying it because, knowing their thoughts, He knows that there’s something on the inside here that He’s going to deal with. But He’s trying to reason with them and they’re not seeing it at all because what they’re saying is coming from within. He says, “They’ll be your judges.”
“‘But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.’”
So, if the Kingdom of God has come upon you, are you going to see it? Are you going to say things that are in the same regard as what you’ve seen? Are you seeing something different and speaking something different? He goes, “The Kingdom of God has come upon you. This is the Kingdom of God that has come upon you.”
He says, “‘Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.’”
He’s like, “Just lean in here, guys, and think about what you’re saying here. This doesn’t make any sense.”
He says, “‘Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever doesn’t gather with me scatters.’”
“I mean, you guys are hearing the Gospel. You’re seeing the Gospel. You’re seeing the works of the Holy Spirit of God. You’re seeing them and what you’re speaking is not right about what you’re seeing.”
We’re even told in Scripture that we believe in our heart that Jesus rose from the dead and we confess with our mouth that these words come from what we believe on the inside. These words really matter. They’re significant.
He says, “‘Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.’”
Now, if you’ve been in church long enough, you probably have heard this passage. As a professor, this comes up at different times. It comes up every time I teach, though. If I’m teaching an eight-week class, sixteen classes, at least one of those classes, somebody’s going to raise their hand and go, “Dr. Bennett, could you tell me what the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is?”
Because, see, they’re thinking that prom night that they had where they went out and it was like sin wasn’t going to keep them from anything — you know what I’m talking about? They’re like, “Did I blaspheme the Holy Spirit then?” Or some of them are thinking, “When I read Jonah and it said that he was swallowed by the fish, I didn’t really believe that when I read it. I’m thinking, ‘I don’t know if a fish could really swallow Jonah.’ Maybe I blasphemed the Holy Spirit.”
Or whatever it is. Some of you all may struggle with that. That always comes up. Let me put you at ease. That’s not what blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is simply rejecting the Spirit’s work when it’s testifying about Jesus. We’re told in John, over and over again, “When the Spirit comes, He will testify about Jesus.” So, when he Spirit is at work — and you can only come to the Father if the Spirit draws you. You can see that in John 6:44. When the Spirit is at work, if you reject the Spirit, you’re ultimately rejecting Jesus because the Spirit testifies about Jesus. So, if you reject Jesus — and you may have rejected Jesus at some time or the other, but then you decided, “I’m in,” okay. But if you reject Jesus fully and completely and do not accept Jesus, then you can’t be forgiven. It’s just you can’t. The only way to be forgiven is to believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins. So, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not that thing you did back on Friday night. It’s something more significant than that.
He says, “‘Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.’”
Now He pivots here and He goes back to what He’s really been trying and this passage is all about.
He says, “‘And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven,’”
People say, “I don’t believe in Jesus,” or whatever. That’s not going to keep you out. It’s when the Spirit shows up, when the Spirit’s doing something, when the Spirit’s arresting your heart. When you reject that, you’re in trouble because the Spirit’s talking to you about Jesus.
He says, “‘But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.’”
So, the only thing that can’t be forgiven is rejecting Jesus. If you reject Jesus, you’re in trouble. If you accept Jesus, you’re not in trouble. It’s real simple here. It doesn’t need to be complicated.
But He says, “‘Either make the tree good and its fruit good,’”
Well, what are the fruits of the tree here? It’s our words. We’re going to see that as we go through here. These passages get wrangled out of context.
He says, “‘Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.’”
And listen to what He says: “‘You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil?’”
See, that’s why He knew their thoughts. He knew the words that came out of their mouth were a window into their soul. The words that come out of our mouth are window into our soul. Words really matter. This is a long passage of Scripture to be talking about words.
He goes on to say, “‘For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.’”
See, it’s either a tree’s good or a tree’s bad. You’re going to know the way the tree is by the fruit of that tree by the way in which they speak.
“‘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,”
It’s like, you know, most people: “Oh, this passage is about blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.” No. This passage is about our words. This passage is about, ultimately, what do we see when we see Jesus and what do we say about Jesus when we see Him? But it also has much deeper levels because our words matter.
He says, “‘For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.’”
Ultimately, what He’s saying is that what you say about Jesus is either going to justify you. “You’re the Son of the Living God,” and therefore you’re forgiven, or your words will condemn you because you say, “This guy’s casting out demons by Beelzebul and all of that stuff.”
But here’s the point. The point is that this is a long passage of Scripture talking about how powerful words are. Words really, really, really are powerful things. I think oftentimes, as Christians, because we just live in a world where words are just flippantly used and things are said about people and all of this stuff, and we usually polarize and it’s okay to say something negative about somebody else because you’re on the right side.
Can I just be a pastor here for a second? Listen to me and hear my heart. Wherever side you’re on, I can assure you that you believe many things that are wrong. Listen to me. Listen to your pastor. I don’t care what side you’re one, you’ve got things that you don’t believe that are right. If you don’t think that, that’s arrogance and pride. Do you really know the people? Do you really know them? You’ve had lunch with them? You’re friends? You’ve hung out? You went on vacation with them? No. You don’t know them at all. But yet, you know them. You’re accusing them of this and that and the other, and yelling at this. We do it. Listen: This stuff’s got to stop in the name of the Lord. It’s got to stop. We’ve got to get control of this thing because we look more like the world than we look like Jesus. We’ve just sucked ourselves right in and we’re not even thinking. Let me tell you something: It doesn’t make a difference what side you’re on. The side you need to be on is the side of Jesus. If you think Jesus is on your side, you’re wrong. He isn’t on either side. He’s on His side. His kingdom’s not of this world. Period.
Yeah. Some of you all are like, “I don’t know. If I clap, I might have to stop saying — oh, gosh. My Facebook page might need to get deleted. I’m not sure I want to clap.”
You know? But what I want to do here is lean in. We’re going to call this “let’s talk about it.” Let’s talk about this. Let’s chat about this. Go home and chat about this. Chew on this. Think through this. I love Joshua. A captain of the Lord’s host comes and Joshua is like, “You for us and against them?” Do you know what the Lord’s answer is? “No.” Why does He say that? Because He’s for both. Can I tell you something? He’s for both. He loves both. When we wag our tongues in the other direction, it may make us feel good, but we’re not using our words in a godly manner. We need to think about this.
As your pastor, I’d rather you be mad at me and me actually teach the Bible to you than for you to love me and for me to twist and pervert it into something that just makes you feel good.
So, what we say really matters. It really matters. Solomon says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
Lean in here. Listen to me. Every word that I say, that you say, is doing one of two things. It’s either speaking life or it’s speaking death. You go, “Yeah, but they’re not on my side, so I’m going to say...”
No, no, no. You’re either speaking life or you’re speaking death. When you say, “This person’s a liar,” or, “That person’s a liar,” or whatever, you’re only accusing ourselves because there ain’t nobody in this room that hasn’t lied. There ain’t nobody in this room that hasn’t done things that they wish that they hadn’t done. There isn’t anybody in this room that didn’t have their head in the cookie jar at some point, and momma saw them and you said, “I didn’t have anything,” and you’ve got chocolate chips all over your face and everything else. We’ve all done it. Okay? But what we do is we get over on our sides and we think it’s okay to unload when it’s done because death and life are in the power of the tongue.
Let me show you how powerful words are. Let me show you this. This is called my test case. “The 12 Spies.” If you’ve never read the story, go home. It’s two chapters in Numbers 13 and 14. You can read it this afternoon. You can either watch the Atlanta Falcons lose, or you can read Numbers 13 and 14. Yeah. They got a new coaster for the Atlanta Falcons. You can put your drink on it and it doesn’t leave a ring. Anyway. That was pretty good to just pull that out of the air, wasn’t it? See? I’ve got to watch my tongue, too. I will be honest with you: In putting this material together, I had those moments where I picked up the phone at one point and I was like, “I’m not saying a word,” because I need to listen to my own stuff here.
I mean, seriously, you may think you’re having a moment today about our words. I’ve got to preach this thing four times and prepare for this stuff. It’s just brutal. I’m just going to get scissors.
Anyway, The 12 Spies in Numbers 13 and 14, we have a story here where Charlton Heston has delivered the children of Israel out of Egypt. I’m glad you know the story. Anyway, they go through the Red Sea, they go through the wilderness and they get the Ten Commandments on Sinai. Then God says, “Okay. Now you’re going to go to Canaan and you’re going to take the land.”
That’s what He says. So, what does Moses do? He says, “Well, let’s send 12 spies.” They’re like, “The land was yours. You’re going to send 12 spies in the land?” They send 12 spies into the land. They come back and 10 of them, here’s what it says: “They brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out.”
They spoke death. Two of them, Joshua and Caleb, spoke life. They said, “No. We can do this. God said we can do this. God’s Word said we could do this. We can do this.”
Those 10 people, the power of their words, cost hundreds of thousands, probably upward to a million people their inheritance in the land because of how powerful those words were; those words that spoke death. It affected probably upwards of a million people. Now, the words that they spoke didn’t come out of nowhere. We’re told in the story, if we read it carefully, how those words were generated. First of all, these were people of doubt. They weren’t people of faith. They were people of doubt. They probably convinced themselves that they were doing the right thing. They were pragmatic. They were like, “Yeah. I mean, I know that God said that, but we’re not going to be able to go up against these people because they’re a lot stronger than we are. Let’s just sit down and reason through this thing here. Let’s be pragmatic.”
A lot of times, being pragmatic, when it comes to Scripture, will create doubt in your life. Faith is different than doubt. So, they have a doubt. Well, that doubt leads to fear. Doubt always leads to fear because when you start doubting what God will do, then you start fearing all the things. You either trust in God to provide for you or you don’t. Then you have to start figuring out how you can do it, and that doesn’t work very well. And then you start looking at all the other things around you, everything else, housing markets, economy and all that stuff. Before long, you’re in fear because it starts with doubt.
Before they ever spoke a word, this is going on in their life. People of doubt. Then they have fear because Joshua says, “Don’t fear the people of the land.” They’ve got fear. Before long, that doubt and fear leads to a critical spirit. And it always will. Doubt and fear and being driven by fear will lead to wagging our tongues and saying crazy things. All the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt.” You just want to say, “Stop. Do you listen? Are you even listening to what you’re saying?”
And I know some of you are going, “Yeah. That’s the other side.” No. That’s you. That’s you. This isn’t point the finger. This is own it. It starts with doubt, fear, critical spirit. Then, before long, it’s rebellion because they’re like, “You know what? We’re just going to choose our own leaders and go back to Egypt.” And then they’re at unbelief. The book of Hebrews talks all about the unbelief. This is the way relationships go. Whether it’s with God, a spouse, a church or whatever, somewhere along the way you doubt. No longer faith. No longer faith in my marriage. Sort of doubting things, not knowing what’s going on. Then, next thing you know, fear creeps in. “I wonder what’s really going on.” And then this critical spirit. You’re going, “Let me tell you about what she’s doing. Let me tell you what he’s doing.” And before long, then you’re just in total rebellion and you have no more belief in anything. This is just the way it works. Before you even speak a word, this is settled in your heart.
And look at what happened as a result of this going on on the inside. Because, see, our words don’t just matter because they affect other people. Words really matter because they actually show us what’s going on inside of us. They’re a window into our soul. They saw problems instead of possibilities, rather than possibilities rather than problems. They saw giants instead of God, and they saw defeat instead of victory. Because what had taken root in here came out here.
“No. There’s too many problems here. There’s too much stuff. This is just crazy. There are so many giants to take on. We even saw the Nephilim in that land. We know about those crazy people back from early on in Genesis. There are problems here. We’re going to lose. We’re not going to win.”
When God had, in fact, said, “Go into the land and you’ve got it.” They could’ve walked in without a sword and they would’ve had the land because God said He would do it. But what happened was the words that came out were stuff that had been rooted on the inside. Because, see, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. See, words really matter.
Secondly, and tune in here because this is important, the words we speak are either relational bridges or relational bombs. There’s no in-between. You’re either bombing something or you’re bridging something. That’s all there is to it. It’s one of the two. Every word that we speak is either relationally bridging or relationally bombing what’s going on. Our marriages, our families, relationships at church, our social media things, neighbors, jobs, children. All of this stuff. We have to ask ourselves the question. And here’s the deal: You will lie to yourself and say, “Well, not in every case.” In every case, your words are either creating bridges or they’re throwing bombs at relationships. People are like, “Yeah, but I want to be right.” God didn’t ask you to be right. God asked you to create relationships. I’ve got a whole sermon we’re going to talk about for those people who feel like they have constantly got to tell everybody who’s wrong. It’s called “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Let me tell you something: You’re not it. There’s one guardian of the galaxy, and He’s the one who created it. His name is Jesus Christ and He knows a lot more than we know and a lot more of the data points.
I suspect when we get to heaven that all of us are going to go, “Whew. How wrong I was on all of it.” That’s why your mom and dad gave you great, great, great advice. If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say it. See, God spoke the world into existence. Think about that. He could’ve created the world any way He wanted to, but He chose words to create the world. See, words create. Our words that we speak to others, our words that we speak to ourselves, these are powerful things. Sometimes we just need to take a moment and go, “Whew. You’re right, man. This is true. My words really do matter. I need to watch.”
I like what Dorothy Nevill says here. She says, “The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place, but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”
Can I get an amen on this one? Right? That’s the truth. Think about that. And let me give you one more little piece of advice here. Even when we win a verbal argument, we’ve usually lost. “But I’m right.” How’s the relationship? “Well, they don’t like me anymore.” So, you won. That’s great. You made a point. That’s great. But you didn’t gain a person. You know? We do that. Where this breaks down is when we get into these verbal arguments, what happens is we start name-calling. No matter what side you’re on, you do it. “Oh, I can’t believe that.” Name-calling. And then it’s condescension. “Any fool could see that I’m right. I mean, it’s so obvious here.”
Whatever. And then there’s demeaning comments, and then there’s threats, and then there’s accusations. I want you to lean in here because this is so important because we live in a verbally warring society and the Church has gotten involved in it. I mean, I have a pastor friend that I was reading. I just showed Tom. He’s going, “You can’t even be a Christian.” And then somebody chimes in and goes, “Pastor, you’ve really stepped in it.”
“No, I haven’t. This is clearly what the Word of God says.”
Listen, I’m a systematic theologian. Can I tell you something? When anybody tells you the Bible is very clear on this, can I tell you something? It usually isn’t. It’s usually pretty muddy and murky on things. But let me tell you something. Do you see these things up here? All of this stuff here, which we all fall into at different times. This right here, right here, is the work of Satan. This is what he does. So, the Church is doing the work of Satan when we’re doing this, thinking that we’re doing the work of God. You say, “Oh, well. Yeah. But I don’t believe that.” Great. Let me give you a passage of Scripture here to show you that I’m being correct here, biblically.
It says, “He showed me Joshua the high priest standing before...”
You notice here I said, “Trying to be right, biblically.” I wanted to say, “Let me show you that I’m right,” which would’ve been really crazy after I just said whatever. See? I’m trying to yank that tongue back. You know?
“He showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.”
Satan’s the accuser of the brethren. “You’re no good. You’re bad. You don’t have it right. You’re not worthy. You don’t measure up. I can’t believe you’d do that. You’re an evil person. You’re this, that and the other. All those people, this group or whatever.”
That’s exactly what he does.
“The Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is Joshua not a brand plucked from the fire?’ And he was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments.”
It’s just like you and me. This is emblematic of salvation, but it’s also emblematic of the words. The devil’s there accusing. “This guy’s no good. He’s dirty.” All of us are, outside of Jesus. All of us have the seeds of Hitler within us. All of us. The heart of man is wicked. It’s in need of a savior. The biggest lie you could tell yourself is that you’re better.
H.C.G. Moule, the great theologian, said, “You may be on the mountaintop and they may be in the valley, but neither one of you can touch the sun.”
It says he’s standing there with filthy garments and the devil’s accusing him. “Look, look, look.” And he’s right. He’s dirty. Look at God’s words.
“The angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ Then he said, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and will clothe you with pure vestments.’”
He said words. We like that for us. When we’re standing there messed up and dirty and nasty, we like grace. We’re going to give ourselves grace. We love it. But do we extend it to everybody? Even those that we don’t like? Even those that are our enemies? Even those that have smacked our cheeks? Do we do that because that’s what God did to us? It wasn’t like we were friends of God. It said, “When we were enemies of God, He sent His Son in Romans 5 to die for you and me.” Are we clothing people with the words? Are we speaking life? Are we clothing them or are we accusing them of their filthy garments, which is really the work of the devil, which means we’re doing the devil’s work for him, which means he can go sit back and probably sip on some sort of drink while we just eat each other up?
So, what I’ll leave you with is this: By your words you’ll be justified and by your words you’ll be condemned. We need to talk about this because we live right now in a time and age where, in my opinion, it’s awesome. Because we have such a chance, if we look like the Church and really look like Jesus, we’re going to stand out like sore thumbs in the midst of this world that we live in. I’m going to tell you right now it is my job and my goal and my passion, as the pastor of this church, to make it as difficult as possible to go to hell for anybody in Lakewood Ranch.
Let me just say this before I close with prayer: You and me, that are Christians, are in the royal lineage of Abraham. We’re in the royal lineage of the house of David. Let’s speak like we’re people of dignity. Let’s speak like where king’s kids. Let’s speak like we’re people that know the King of kings and Lord of lords. Let’s speak life into people rather than speak death. Let’s check our tongue before we wreck ourselves. Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Amen? Good. Alright. So, we’re going to talk about this over the next few weeks. I think it’s going to be challenging. I think it’s going to be convicting. I think it’s going to be transforming. And I can tell you this: If we can come together and get the old tongue arrested and we can start speaking life rather than speaking death, I’m going to tell you what, it’s going to change your marriage, it’s going to change your life, it’s going to change your friends, it’s going to change your job, it’s going to change this community. Because what I’m praying for right now is a revival in the tongues of the people at Grace Community Church. Because if our tongues will get some revival and start talking about Jesus, then I guarantee you there’s going to be people out there that hear about Him that are going to respond. Amen?
Let’s bow our heads and let’s pray. Let’s pray.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for the truth of Your Word. I thank You for the wonderful things that You’re doing here at our church. Lord, I thank You for the fact that we can come in here and it may not be what we want, but it is definitely what we need, which is Your Word. Lord, start with me. There’s no question in my mind that my tongue can use some anointing and my tongue can use some sanctification at times. I’m sure I’m not the only one, but I’ll start with me. Lord, I pray that over the next few weeks You would really speak to us, that we would really be challenged and convicted for Your glory, for Your honor and for good things. Not just to make us feel bad, but to make us more like Your Son.
I pray that that would be a reality here at our church for Your glory. I pray that when we get done with this series, we would truly feel like something has happened in our lives that’s changed us. Lord, I believe that when we start speaking the way You want us to speak, I think we’re going to see differences — massive differences — in our lives in every way. Things that just absolutely will blow us away. So, Lord, I pray that as we walk out of here today, I pray that You would continue to lead, guide and direct us. I pray that You would bring us back to when we meet again. I pray, Lord, that You would help us to dialogue this week over these things with our friends, families, small groups and in times of prayer with You in devotion. I pray, Lord, that You would continue to help us to be the church that you’ve called us to be. That is the church that’s going to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.
Lord, we love You, we thank You and we praise You. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.” Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.