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Well, good morning. A number of you have noticed that I’m wearing glasses up here on the platform and wondered why. It’s a simple answer: I can’t see very well. [laughter] I discovered that around Easter that I was struggling to read and lead you in worship, and so I thought, mmm, maybe it’s time for glasses. Another sign of aging.
Well, Kevin, as you know, is in the UK and will not be back today or this evening, but in his absence it’s my great privilege to bring you God’s Word this morning.
I am known to say often that the Bible is the only book I know that comprehensively explains life in a fallen world as I experience it. I am also known to say that the Bible is the only book I know that provides a remedy for life in a fallen world as I experience it. And with that in mind, we are spending a large part of this summer in the book of Proverbs. Proverbs meets us where we life, 24/7. It’s remarkably practical. It anticipates the realities of life in a fallen world and meets them head on. The proverbs were relevant in Solomon’s day and they remain relevant in our time, as well, for good reason, because the heart of man has not changed.
Despite all its remarkable cultural and technological progress, man has not been able to solve his ultimate problem that hinders and corrupts everything else that he accomplishes. That problem is sin, of course, and man’s sin can only and ultimately be addressed in a comprehensive and lasting way through the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. And that’s why the Scriptures, including Proverbs, are forever relevant and valuable to the Christian.
We’ve already looked to Proverbs for a diagnosis and a remedy for a redemptive way forward for such things as anger and conflict and business ethics. We’ll be looking at other important topics that Proverbs addresses in coming weeks, but this morning it’s my task to address a critical matter that is spoken of throughout Proverbs and the rest of Scripture. It’s an issue that I and the other pastors deal with routinely in our pastoral counseling, and as we will see the Lord has strong opinions on the matter and issues frequent warning to us to heed, and I’m speaking, of course, of our speech. The words that we use day in and day out, which as we will see in Proverbs, have great power, either to give live or to take life.
If you’ve been a member of Christ Covenant for a long time, you may remember that I spoke to the power of our words some years ago, so why would I bring it up again? I have several reasons.
First, one of the consequences of the fall is that we quickly forget what we’ve heard and know. Forgetfulness was a great problem for ancient Israel, but it’s our problem, too. The apostles knew this, and so they were quick to remind the early disciples of what they already knew. Here’s how the Apostle Peter addresses this challenge in his second epistle, 2 Peter 1, verse 12: “Therefore,” Peter writes, “I intend always to remind you of these qualities though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. Think it right as long as I am in this body to stir you up by way of reminder. Since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.” Anticipating his martyrdom, Peter thought it urgent and necessary to remind the disciples of the truths that they had already been established in. It wasn’t…
If that weren’t enough, just two chapters later, he does it again. Chapter 3 of 2 Peter, verse 1, he writes: “This is now the second later that I’m writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles.”
There are a host of things in Christianity, both in doctrine and in life, that we must be constantly reminded of if we are to stand firm against the schemes of the devil, and the stewardship of our words is one of them.
Secondly, according to Ray Ortlund, Jr., there are over 90 proverbs counseling us about our speech. Proverbs has more to say about our words than it does about anything else in our lives. More than money, more than sexuality, or family.
Jim Newheiser, who heads the counseling program at RTS Charlotte, says that 150 out of 915 proverbs, a sixth of the book of Proverbs, address our speech. Taken with what the rest of Scripture has to say about our words, it would seem that this is very important to the Lord.
But thirdly, in the years since I last spoke about the power of our words, we have witnessed an unprecedented and rapid decline in our nation’s public and private discourse that is sad, it’s breathtaking, and destructive, and unfortunately Christians are not just victims of such grievous speech, they’re also all too often perpetrators.
So take your Bibles, would you, and turn with me to one of the, just one of the 90 proverbs addressing our words. Proverbs 18:21, Proverbs 18:21. It’s both a warning and an encouragement. And there we read death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
Would you pray with me? Father, You speak and as those made in Your image, we, too, speak. The Bible says that Your words are living and active. They are powerful. And Your words are designed and intended to give us life rather than death. Teach us this morning how to think about this means in which we either imitate and please you, or imitate our arch enemy Satan, by the use of our words. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
I want to set a context for our sermon this morning about our words by making several observations. First, it’s important for you to remember that our words, as well as our thoughts and deeds, issue from the heart, and the heart does not begin in neutral as it influences our speech and our thoughts and our conduct. What do I mean? Well, the Bible is clear that the human heart naturally has a sinful orientation. And as we’ll see in a few moments, our natural predisposition with our words is not toward life, but toward death. I think you know that from experience, but the Bible’s really clear about that.
Let’s look at two passages that prove this. The first is Mark 7, Mark 7, beginning in verse 20. Jesus says there “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, for from within out of the heart of man come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness, all these things come from within and they defile a person.”
I said this to you in other sermons, and I’m reminding you again: The heart is the engine that drives everything that we think and say and do. Your speech does not occur in a vacuum. And it’s so important that you understand the Bible’s theology of the heart and your sanctification if you are to experience lasting change. Your words reveal your heart’s condition much like a thermometer reveals the temperature in a room or a barometer measures atmospheric conditions.
Here’s one more passage. Look over with me to Romans chapter 3, beginning in verse 9. Romans 3, verse 9. Here Paul is arguing, persuasively, that all men are great sinners in need of a saving mercy of God. And there he writes: “What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. We’ve already charged that all that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
This is a remarkable and central point that Paul makes in his argument that all men are sinners and need a savior. It’s a brutal indictment of all mankind. It flies in the face of the modern notion or belief that men are basically good. No, says Paul, they’re not. In fact, they are haters of God in their hearts.
And notice the particular evidence that Paul brings forth to sustain his claims. Look at verses 13 and 14. He says “their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
Our words put our heart’s condition on exhibition. Mortlock Daniel writes “the tongue is the servant of the heart.” Strictly speaking, he says “the tongue never speaks at random, the tongue is the criterion of the moral man, a diseased heart is thereby truthfully advertised.”
Here’s a second point of context that I want you to keep in mind this morning. While it may appear that I’m addressing our spoken words, this proverb applies equally to the written word as well, whether it’s in letters or e-mails or blogs or text messages, tweets, Facebook, and any other social media. However, and whenever, we express ourselves, our tongue is at work expressing the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. So you must think beyond mere spoken words, and even silence is a form of speech in some situations.
One more point of context is in order, and it’s this: Our words are never delivered in a vacuum. To others, they are delivered to others by our facial and body countenance; I think we call that body language; as well as by the tone and volume or our voices. How many times I thought my words to my wife and children were neutral only to discover that I had wounded them because my face gave me away. I’ve heard that so many times.
There is, indeed, a context for our words that resides in our faces and in our tone and in the volume of our voices that’s difficult to hide, for better or for worse.
The point is this: It is nearly impossible to speak to others without revealing your emotions and sentiments, whether they be joy or sorrow, gratitude or anger, no matter how hard you try.
And so with these things in mind, let’s look at this proverb and see what the Lord is saying to us this morning.
The first thing I want you to see is that Solomon says that the tongue is endowed with power. Life and death are in the power of the tongue. You have any doubt that this is true, that your tongue has considerable power? It is rarely, if ever, neutral. And since the tongue expresses the thoughts and intentions of the heart, it nearly always has an agenda. Human beings love power, whatever its source. It’s easy to think of power when we see the incredible benefits of electricity, or an engine, or the destructive power of hurricanes and tornadoes, and Lord forbid, nuclear weapons.
We don’t necessarily associate power with the tongue, but the Bible does. And unlike physical strength, nearly everyone has the power of speech. And here is what you must remember: The tongue’s power is primarily exercised in the spiritual realm rather than in the physical realm. One could argue that when we wield the power of our tongues, the impact, for better or for worse, is greater than that of electricity or car engines or other powerful tools and technologies that enthrall us in our world. For the tongue’s power targets the precious souls of men and women, boys and girls, either edifying and benefiting them, or violating and destroying them.
So powerful is the tongue as either a weapon or a tool of grace that Solomon says it has the ability to give life or take life. And so it’s a grave mistake to underestimate the power each of us has with our speech, and because this is true, we have an obligation to carefully steward our words.
This is the motif of Proverbs in the rest of Scripture. So crucial is this that we will see a little later that the Lord will hold us very accountable for our words.
Solomon says that the great power of the tongue either brings death or life to others. Because the Scriptures are inspired by God, we hold that this inspiration includes every letter and every word and even extends to the word order, and so I find it interesting that Solomon does not listen the power of life first in his proverb, but rather he says firs that the tongue has the power of death. Why is that? Perhaps the power of death is listed first because of what I said earlier about our hearts predisposition to evil. Left to ourselves, we’d likely wield our words as a weapon, to see that we win, that we’re in control, that life ultimately revolves around us.
But for the Holy Spirit’s presence to constrain evil and God’s great grace, this would be our plight.
So how does the tongue kill? How are we to think of that? There is a proverbial saying that’s not from the Bible. I know you’ve heard it—it goes like this: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Well, I want to say this morning, the Bible differs with this maxim that we were taught by our parents and perhaps we have taught our own kids. Words, like sticks and stones, do hurt.
And I would argue that the damage can be greater than that of sticks and stones, for while stcisk and stones can break bones, words of death strike at the soul. The wounded soul is given rise to the practices of psychiatry and psychology and the world of professional counseling. The souls of folks wounded by words of death take a good portion of the pastor’s week to console and to heal. Yes, words are more like sticks and stones than we think.
Many of you know what I’m speaking of. You were raised in homes where harsh and vicious words were the order of the day. Many of you rarely heard words of grace that give life, and often those harsh and hateful words were accompanied by harsh and hateful deeds that simply confirmed what you were told. And the damage done to the victims of such evil, though hard perhaps to quantify, is really easy to observe.
What kinds of words am I speaking of? There’s a universe of words of death that the Bible speaks of. Let me list some categories that come from a commentary by Mortlock Daniel. He says there are severe words that are savage and malicious by design, “you are worthless” is their intended message. There are angry words that are like road rage to those that they target. There are false and deceitful words that are intended to fool and confuse others, as Judas attempted when he betrayed our Lord. There are whispering words that the Bible calls gossip and slander which destroy reputations and which issue from our tongues with barely a second thought. There are boasting and disparaging words that flow from pride and conceit. There are flattering words that are designed to manipulate others and to self-serving ends. There are skeptical and judgmental words that refuse to give the judgment of charity. There are irreverent words that conceal a contempt for Almighty God. There are idle words that betray a wasteful mind, without purpose or an intent to be of value to others.
I want to take a moment to address a category of words that constitute contempt, contempt. We swim in a culture of contempt. As I mentioned in my introduction, we are seeing an unprecedented and rapid decline in public and private discourse in every sphere and institution, it seems. No realm seems exempt. It’s coming from the news media, all social media, sadly from our nation’s legislature and the White House, to mention a few, and words of contempt can be contagious.
I don’t think I’m alone in saying I’m alarmed at how language of contempt is destroying our culture. Books are being written about it. I have read, or am in the process of reading, a number of them. I’ve listed some of them in your sermon notes. All of them are helpful in diagnosing the problem, warning us of the dire consequences to our nation, our families, and our personal lives, and some are helpful in providing a way forward.
One book uses a new term for those we hold in contempt. It comes from the book How to Think, and the term is “repugnant cultural other.” Repugnant cultural other. It’s a term of derision.
In his book Love Your Neighbor, conservative commentator for the New York Times Arthur Brooks says “we live in the age of contempt, and that it marks all our public discourse in every media form.” He says that we have an epidemic of contempt. Listen to how the author, he and the authors that he cites, define contempt. He says contempt is “anger mixed with disgust, forming a toxic combination like ammonia mixed with bleach.” He says contempt is the unsullied conviction of the worthlessness of another. Contempt, he continues, is an enduring attitude of complete disdain. Contempt, he writes, seeks to exile. It attempts to mock, shame, and permanently exclude from relationships by belittling, humiliating, and ignoring. Contempt says “you disgust me, you’re beneath caring about.”
Probably the best commentary and sentiment about the words of contempt and death in Scripture are found in the New Testament, in James chapter 3, that Brian read earlier. I would like you to turn to James, chapter 3, in your Bibles. I won’t read it all again, but I do want to point out a few things. I hope you were listening to Brian when he read that and you realize that James was addressing believers. And I know that most of you have read this passage before. It’s as if James is fleshing out Proverbs 18:21. He’s speaking to us, and he’s speaking about the tongue’s power to destroy.
First, he says that the tongue’s ability to destroy the souls of others made in the image of God is nearly uncontrollable and inexhaustible. It’s more difficult, James says, to tame our tongues than to tame any beast on earth. It’s ability to destroy is entirely out of proportion to its size.
Now I want you to look with me at verses 9 and 10. For he says there “with it we bless our Lord and Father,” as we’re doing this morning here in worship, “And with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”
James is pointing out for us the utter inconsistency, hypocrisy, and wickedness. It’s assuming the liberty to use our words to bless God one moment and curse men made in His image, believer and unbeliever alike, in another moment. This is the nature of contempt. It’s a great evil. And none of us are exempt.
How grievous is this in the sight of our holy God? If you want to turn in your Bibles with me to Matthew chapter 5, verse 21, we’ll see. Here Jesus is correcting the prevailing understanding of the law of God in his time. Allow His words to sink in. Matthew 5, 21 and 22. Jesus says “you’ve heard that it was said to those of old ‘you shall not murder; and whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says ‘you fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire.”
Friends, these are sobering statements from James and our Lord and we must conclude that it is some form of spiritual insanity to speak to others contemptuously. If this weren’t enough to make us weep, it’s my experience that we often reserve these destructive words for those we claim to love the most. Somehow we feel the freedom to speak to them in a tone and with words we’d never use with other people, except on social media.
I’m not guiltless in this regard, but it shouldn’t be tolerated, and I agree with James, this should not be. And it’s unloving and inappropriate to allow such conversation to occur in your home.
The Psalms contain many prayers of lament. These are prayers of God’s people suffering the abuse and the attacks of their enemies, often in word. These laments are wonderful allies to us in our own suffering, as they express so well the heart of the sufferer. It is common in the laments for the psalmist to mention the agony of soul associated with the vicious words of another.
Psalm 57:4 is an example. I’ll read it for you. “My soul is in the midst of lions. I lie down amid fiery beasts. The children of man, whose teeth are like spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.”
The psalmist uses the imagery of a sharp word to describe the words of his enemies. This is a very apt word picture for words of death. Such words like a sword are thrust into the heart of another person intentionally, for the express purpose of bringing harm to the soul of their victim.
Do you see then the proverb’s assessment that the power of death rests with our words? And if that was where Proverbs 18:21 ended, we’d be rightly undone, but it doesn’t stop there, praise God. It goes on to say “death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
Solomon is saying that even as our speech has the power to destroy, it also has the power to give life, to be beneficial in the lives of others. How valuable is this? I argue that life-giving words are of inestimable benefit to the souls of men and women and boys and girls.
And that in part is because there is a great lack of such words in our fallen, pain-filled world. Look around. Listen to the news. Observe families. It is very sad. And so giving life-giving words are like a drink of cool water to the thirsty soul in a waterless desert.
Have you ever been the beneficiary of life-giving words? I have. When I spoke to you years ago about the power of words to give life, I told you the story of growing up in a home where words were used carelessly and were often hurtful. So hurtful were they that I entered my young adult life questioning my value and potential. But at 23 I was introduced to the gospel of Jesus Christ, that gospel was such good and refreshing news to me because I understood for the first time that God loved me unconditionally and had died for my sins to secure eternal life with Him. I told you then about a slightly older Christian friend named Ben Hooks who was not only the first person to share the gospel with me, but became, for a time, my mentor and my friend. In my last visit with Ben, he said something to me that I have never forgotten. He was returning to his home in Austin, Texas and as we were saying goodbye, just before I left, Ben looked me in the eyes and he said these words: “Bernie, don’t forget this. You have the potential to affect many lives for Jesus Christ.” I told you that I left Ben’s house and I had not seen or spoken to him since. But I never forgot that last conversation with Ben that took place 36 years prior to when I preached on this topic years ago. I often revisit his words to this day. I concluded that it was Ben’s words of life spoken to me in a timely and intentional moment that explained on some level who I am today.
I remember telling you that I had thought many times that I needed to contact Ben and thank him, and after that service, after telling you that story years ago, I believe it was one of our church officers came up to me right after the service and challenged me to find Ben to tell him what I shared with you, and so I did. It took quite a while for me to find him, but eventually I found him on Facebook, of all places. And when I called Ben I told him the story and I thanked him, and he became very quiet. And eventually he said to me, “Bernie, you have no idea how timely your call is, for my wife has recently divorced me and I’m alone.” We’ve stayed in touch since then, such is the power of timely words in the hands of the God of providence to give life.
I think it’s possible to assess the health of a church by the quality of its conversation. You’ve been very kind to me and my family with your words. That is one thing that Pat and I will cherish as we move into retirement next year. I think I speak for the other pastors, too, how important is that. Well, if you come to my office sometime, I’ll show you a special place in my desk where I put your written notes of encouragement, still have every one of them. I’ll show you a folder on my computer where I store all the e-mails of encouragement that you’ve sent me over the many years. And if that’s true for me, I’m sure it’s true for you as well.
I learned a long time ago, as a husband and a father, to try not to let a day go by that my wife and children do not hear me tell each of them that I love them, and I’m for them. My five children are all grown now, but Pat and I continue to do this. I’m confident they will never grow tired of hearing those words from us, and we’re doing our best to extend this healthy practice to our four grandchildren, these words of life.
Did I tell you that we had another grandson on Wednesday? [laughter] We did. Nathan, is his name.
If I were to point you to one passage beyond the many proverbs that has helped me the most in stewarding my words for the welfare of others, it would be Ephesians 4:29. Turn there with me, please.
I prefer the New American Standard translation here. It’s how I memorized it. But in the middle of a rather long paragraph describing how we’re to live the new life found in Christ, we find these helpful words from the Apostle Paul. There he says “let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word is as good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve,” he goes on to say, in verse 30, “the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
I want you to see just a few things. First, Paul uses the term “unwholesome word” as a substitute for what we have been calling “words of death.” Rather than these, he says were to speak words good for building up others according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to them. This is longhand for words of life.
And if I understand Paul’s instructions, such words are intentional, such words are timely. They are designed and tailored to give grace to the hearer.
To speak this way can be hard work because it is other-focused and we should note that by speaking this way, we avoid grieving the Holy Spirit, who is by virtue of His indwelling, a witness to our speech 24/7.
I should say this as well: Sometimes, sometimes words of life can be painful to the hearer, because they come in the form of a godly rebuke or correction. They may in the moment feel like words of death, but if intended to bring needed correction, they are actually words of life. Long ago I memorized Psalm 141:5 so that I could recognize and receive a timely rebuke as a loving expression when it was in order. That verse in Psalm 141 says “Let the righteousness smite me in kindness and reprove me, it is oil upon my head. Let not my head refuse it.”
Proverbs 18:21 concludes with a promise and a warning. Let me read it for you: “Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Our words, whether they are oral or written, bear fruit. We have certainly seen this morning that it bears fruit for those on the receiving end, words of life and words of death bear fruit.
But the proverb says that those who love to use the tongue will eat its fruits. In God’s economy, we also will either benefit or suffer from the stewardship of our words. Listen to how Galatians 6 explains this principle. Galatians 6, beginning in verse 7. Paul writes “Do not be deceived. God’s not mocked. For whatever one sows, that he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
What an incentive to cultivate life-giving words that benefit others. In doing so, we are ultimate beneficiaries.
But friends, many of us have not taken this as seriously as we should, and so speaking words of death are what we do best. To you, let me add Christ’s warning from Mathew 12, verses 36 and 37. Jesus there warns us “I tell you on the day of judgment, people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
To the horror and regret of many, we have learned that the words and pictures that we place on social media, places like Facebook and Instagram and others, hang around for a very long time. In a sense, what we choose to put on social media, as I understand it, follows us much longer than we might like. And what we put on Facebook is open for the world to see. Many folks, not acting wisely, have expressed themselves on social media, forgetting that employers and others are observing, the indiscretions have cost them their jobs and sometimes much more.
And if that’s true on the scale of Facebook, a mere technology of man, what will it be like on the day of judgment as we face our great God from whom nothing is hidden? That reality alone should give us pause as we are attempted to violate our loved ones or others made in God’s image, with our words.
Out of His great love for us, God has modeled words that give life to us in His Scriptures. Moses’ last words to Israel, just before he climbed Mount Nebo to die, are recorded for us in Deuteronomy 32, verses 45 to 47. Let me read them to you: “And when Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, he said to them, ‘Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law.” And hear this, he continues “For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”
Our Lord’s words were also words of life. He says in John 6:63, “it is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.”
Our life of sanctification is intended to conform us into the image of Christ, and that includes our words. How can we begin the journey to see that our words give life rather than death? Let me suggest a few things for your consideration. There are more in your sermon notes.
I think it’s urgent that we hasten to become self-aware about how our words affect others, so perhaps maybe even today find time to kindly and sincerely ask those who know you best some good, open-ended questions that serve as a bridge for them to walk across and speak into your life. That’s always a good practice. And if you’re married, that certainly includes your spouse and children.
Here’s a sampling of some questions you might ask: Are my conversations with you primarily encouraging, or discouraging? Do you feel respected when I speak with you? If not, is that a frequent experience? How do my words typically leave you thinking about yourself, and our relationship?
Come up with your own questions, but the point is to be curious about how you affect other people with your words. If you’re sincere, if you’re sincere, you will learn a great deal about how your words, including your countenance and your tone, affect your loved ones, and your friends. If the feedback you receive is that your words tend toward death rather than life, I want to urge you to repent before them and give them permission in the future to let you know that your words are crossing the boundary from life to death. I did that with my wife and children some years ago. I have never regretted it. My children have never violated their permission to hold me accountable for my words.
I aoudl also urge you to steward your words toward a more robust prayer life for others. Our prayers are by definition words of life, as we intercede for the welfare of others, even our enemies, as Jesus told us to do.
I would also recommend that you do some reading on the topic. An excellent book I’ve listed in your sermons notes is titled War of Words: Getting to the Heart of Communication Struggles by Paul Tripp. I’ve recommend other books as well.
Finally, I have also included a number of proverbs about the power of words to give or take life, along with your sermon notes, consider them. It would be a great idea to memorize a few of them to help you in the moment. Maybe today you’re here and the idea of cultivating life-giving speech seems not only strange to you, but either unnecessary or impossible. Then I want to invite you first to the Lord Jesus Christ. A moment ago I read His words from John 6:63. He said “the words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.” And in that exchange with His disciples, the fuller intent of Jesus’ meaning was that His words bring eternal life. Only a few verses later, the Apostle Peter, understanding this, exclaims what believers throughout the centuries have acknowledged. Peter responds to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”
And so I invite you to receive Christ’s words of life, and then join the rest of us in our pursuit of being His ambassadors with our words, with the mighty help of His Spirit, to our families, to our brothers and sisters in Christ, and to a lost and dying world.
Would you pray with me? Father, we readily admit that our words are too often not words of life, but rather death. Forgive us, and help us through Your indwelling Spirit to pursue speech that makes us truly human. In Christ’s name. Amen.