Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Avoiding Unwholesome Talk

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, 
but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, 
that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, 
with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, 
along with every form of malice. 
Be kind and compassionate to one another, 
forgiving each another, just as in Christ God forgave you."
Ephesians 4:29-32

One of the ways we can shine brightly in a world filled with darkness is by the words we choose to use in our everyday lives. Before people trust Christ, their speech is often characterized by angry, corrupt communication. Paul, who wrote Ephesians, is a good example of this. Before he trusted Christ, he was known for "breathing out threats and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord." After Paul trusted Christ, his words reflected a life governed by love and a passion to share the gospel. His words reflected a desire to teach believers how to relate to their heavenly Father and each other. 

The Holy Spirit, in sealing us as God's children, called us to a higher standard in the area of speech. Sadly our speech is not all that different from nonbelievers'. Our speech often reflects what's going on in us. To change speech we need to begin to keep our hearts pure by letting go of bitterness and working through our anger. Doing this has the potential of keeping us from evil speaking we might be tempted to do. We cannot get rid of those things without confessing them to God and asking Him to remove them and replace them with His tenderhearted compassion.

Pure speech is also easier if we are quick to forgive each other. I found this easier to do when I realized I have already sinned more against God than any person has sinned against me. The least I can do is to forgive those who offend or hurt me. While that realization excites me, it also makes me feel pretty vulnerable. It means I have to become willing to take risks and be willing to put myself in the position of being hurt again and again. To be honest, there are times I want to protect my heart and put up walls so thick no one can penetrate them. However, after I spend time sitting at Jesus' feet and experience His love, I find I don't want to grieve the Holy Spirit by building walls. After spending time with Him, I become more willing to love and risk being hurt. 

It is important to remember it is in living in Christ's presence, that the Christian life becomes more than a set of rules or a fear of making God angry. It becomes a relationship with a living, personable, loving God. I realize my actions can hurt Him because of the love He has for me. In His presence I am more willing to risk being hurt by forming Christ-centered relationships. In His presence, I am willing to risk ridicule by being “different” and using words that edify and minister grace to those who hear them. In His presence, I want to love as boldly as He does—even if it means rejection. I at times even get brave enough to risk a person's anger by pointing out the sin that hinders their relationship with God. 

I have come to realize to have the kinds of words I want in my mouth I have to walk with the Savior and let Him reveal the hurts with which I haven't dealt and allow Him to heal them. I've had to be humble enough to ask Him to replace anger with tenderhearted compassion. I've had to ask Him to melt my bitterness and replace it with His limitless forgiveness. I've had to ask Him to replace the fear of being hurt again with a bold faith that counts on His faithfulness to heal and sustain me with His love. I've had to ask Him to deal with my pride that handles relationships apart from Him. I have to let Him peel away the layers of self-protection so His love shines brightly through me!

Hebrews 10:24 says that we are to provoke one another to love and good works. I think that includes spurring one another to speak words that reflect love. I want the Holy Spirit to fill me so my words minister grace and love to those who hear them? May I encourage you to let the Holy Spirit strip you of the things you use as self-protection so the light of His love can shine brightly though you?

Prayer: Father, thank you so much for the intimacy that comes from having your Holy Spirit seal us into your family. Thank you so much for loving us and for dwelling in us even though at times our words and our actions grieve you. Thank you for the Spirit's work in our lives that melts anger, dissolves bitterness, and erases evil words before we speak them. Thank you for giving us the grace to forgive. Please fill us with Your love and let that overflow into words that edify others. Father, we live in a hurtful world where angry hateful words are hurled at us and around us daily. Please let Your truth and Your love reign in our hearts and minds so that we meet those words and situations with Your grace being protected by your love. Amen.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!