Walking with Jesus: Controlling the Tongue

Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me

Above is a familiar playground rebuttal we were often taught as children, to recite to those who had said hurtful things.  Yet as we become older and more experienced in the ways of life, some of us come to understand how words can actually be much more damaging, for while physical wounds generally heal, hurtful things left uncorrected can cause damage that lasts much longer than a wound to the flesh would.

The power of words is impressed upon us right from the start in the bible we see how God used His words to create everything (Genesis 1).

Jesus taught us that it is important to watch what what we say, as if we are good, we should be saying good things “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. (Matthew 12:33-35).

This is confirmed by James 1:26If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless“.

As the words we speak are an indicator of what lies in our hearts, we had best ensure that they reflect the Godly changes that should be taking place within us: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Jesus was clear about the consequences of not guarding what we say “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:34-37). This highlights the importance of working on improving what we say, if it is not glorifying to God.

James helps to clarify why speech is given such significance for followers of Christ and why it is not an optional part of the Christian walk: 

And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.

People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring (James 3:6-12).”

With words, we can create or destroy, bring love and healing or hurt and destruction. The bible guides us in how God would like us to communicate with each other and is clear about the consequences of not taking care to ensure we bring our tongue into submission of our spirits, rather than our flesh.

Godly Communication:

The bible instructs us that when we speak with others we should seek to:  edify (Ephesians 4:29), comfort (1 Thessalonians 5:10-12), confess (James 5:16), teach (2 Timothy 2:24), rebuke/reprove (2 Timothy 4:1-2) and to be honest (Ephesians 4:29), discrete (Proverbs 11:13) and controlled (Psalm 141:3).

These ways of communicating, shown above, edify God and help to establish the type of community amongst His children that He desires. But what are the negative uses of language the bible tells us to avoid?

Types of Speech condemned in the bible:

Lying/deceitProverbs 6:17; Mark 7:20-23; Romans 3:13; Colossians 3:8-9

Slander – Psalms 50:16-21; Psalms 140:11; Proverbs 10:17-18; Proverbs 11:13; 2 Corinthians 12:20; Colossians 3:8-9; 2 Timothy 3:2-5

Back bitingProverbs 25:23; Psalms 15: 1-3; Titus 3:1-2; 2 Corinthians 12:20

GossipProverbs 16:28; Proverbs 20:19; Proverbs 26:20; 2 Corinthians 12:20; 1 Timothy 5:13

Malicious/cutting/hurtfulProverbs 12:18; Jeremiah 9:2-5; Ephesians 4:31;  1 Peter 2:1

Proud/Boastful2 Timothy 3:2-5; Psalm 12:3-4; 2 Timothy 3:2-5

Wrathful2 Corinthians 12:20; Proverbs 15:18; Colossians 3:8-9

Cursing/filthy language – Psalms 109:17; Romans 3:13-14; Colossians 3:8-9; James 3:10

BlasphemeColossians 3:8-9; 2 Timothy 3:2-5

 

If we agree that God’s way is better than our own, then surely we want to follow the guidance He has given us, all else is vanity. It is a daily, even minute by minute, walk in which we are called to consider our speech before pouring it out upon others in such a way that you glorify the father of sin rather than our Heavenly Father. While it may not be an easy thing to do, it is worthwhile, so let each of us determine to be mindful of our words and seek to bring them more in line with the will of God each day.

 

Other Christian sites discussing controlling the tongue:

 

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Walking with Jesus: Walking in the Spirit

The process of laying aside the self and walking in the spirit is a requirement for those of us that follow Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:38, 16:24, Luke 9:23-24, Ephesians 4:22-24, Galatians 5:16-26). Within these scriptures works of the flesh are revealed that we may know to recognise and avoid them.

  I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:16-26)

However, when going about  daily interactions we are unlikely to consciously classify our behaviour in such a way that we would see these flaws before making the mistake of letting them spill out and affect others. So how can we recognise, before failing, when the flesh may be exerting its control and preventing us from reacting to situations in a more spiritual manner?

The process of learning to walk in the spirit, which is evidence of our maturity in Christ and glorifies God (Matthew 7:17-18, John 15:8), can be likened to choosing to take part in athletic events. Most people are aware that, when taking part in a physically demanding activity, after a while it can start to become painful (dubbed the pain barrier) but if you were to carry on, your metabolism adapts to start using a different type of fuel (switching from burning “easy” glucose to more complex carbohydrates) and you become able to carry on the activity with less strain and discomfort.

The opportunities to choose to walk in the spirit are made more tangible whenever there is a situation in which you feel like behaving in a certain way, although it may not be the way of acting/reacting that Jesus would have done or liked. Likewise, the flesh is evident when we become aware of something nice we could do but, for whatever reason, we choose not to. We have our instructions and guidance in the bible, which tells us to love and value others, so why is it that doing things that would be better for others than yourself can seem so difficult at times?

Usually our reasons for not choosing the more Christ like behaviour can be traced back to some sort of pride or perceived protection of the self. However, by being presented with opportunities that stretch our capacity to love and show love, we are given the chance to push through our own personal “pain barriers” which only give the appearance of protecting the self by telling you things like “you shouldn’t have to do that”.

Forsaking the more spiritual path for the sake of your ego/pride would limiting your own progress. For while the fleshy reaction may feel like it’s protecting you, by restricting your own growth by refusing to seize your opportunities to seek and demonstrate growth, you are doing yourself more harm than good and are keeping yourself shackled to your old man.

It is only when we push through our own barriers, and go on to do the things which we know to be more righteous, that we gain our second wind and begin walking in the spirit. Like physical exercise, repeated pushing of our own limits builds strength, endurance and stamina. So let us determine to be prize spiritual athletes who refuse to quit our training whenever it doesn’t feel nice for a while, so when our time here is through, we can confidently echo the words of Paul and say “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

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The works of the flesh and fruits of the spirit are listed in Galatians 5:16-26:

Works of the flesh:

  • Adultery – Being unfaithful to a marriage partner
  • Fornication – promiscuity
  • Uncleanness – morally impure/foul lifestyles
  • Lewdness – obscene behaviour
  • Idolatry – excessive devotion/worship of person/things
  • Sorcery – the practice of evil powers/black magic
  • Hatred – strongly disliking, or ill will towards, others
  • Contentions – arguments
  • Jealousies – the envying of others
  • Outbursts of wrath – passionate, uncontrolled and extreme anger
  • Selfish ambitions – the strong desire to succeed for the self, rather than others
  • Dissensions – disagreements leading to quarrels
  • Heresies – beliefs contrary to those established
  • Envy – resentment and desire of the possessions or abilities of another
  • Provoking others – tendency to cause anger or resentment in others
  • Murders – the intentional and premeditated taking of other lives
  • Drunkenness – excessive alcohol intake
  • Revelries – unrestrained merrymaking.

Fruits of the Spirit:

  • Love – a strong devotion/sense of goodwill/attachment and deep and tender affection towards others
  • Joy – great pleasure, delight and happiness
  • Peace – calm, quiet tranquility and absence of troubles/worry
  • Longsuffering – the lasting and patient endurance of insults, difficulties or mistreatment
  • Kindness – the habit of being kind/generous to others
  • Goodness – the state of being good, exhibited through virtue/excellence/benevolence etc
  • Faithfulness – full of faith/loyal/reliable and maintains allegiance
  • Gentleness – Humility, serenity and patience. Not forceful.
  • Self-control – controlling ones impulses

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Francis of Assisi Prayer

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;

where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is discord, unity;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, teach me to seek:

not so much to be loved as to love,

to be understood as to understand,

to be consoled as to console,

for it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

it is in giving that we receive,

and it is in dying that we rise to eternal life.

A beautiful poem when made from the heart. It was later adapted into the hymn, “Make me a Channel of Your Peace“.

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Walking with Jesus: Pride and self

As is often the way, the process of sharing God’s word brings about learning for the one that is sharing as well as those they are sharing with. For example, this article on pride. I have felt led to write on pride increasingly over the last few days until, finally, today I resigned myself to reluctantly deciding that I would get it over with. My reluctance to write may be influenced by my past experiences, where I helped to teach at bible groups at a university I attended. Given the audience and environment, I generally felt led to speak on subjects such as Gods love and grace, things that would encourage His children to draw closer to Him, rather than push them away. Hence, speaking on the corrective side of Christianity is not what I am most accustomed to. However, to refuse to do so when led, would in itself be an act of pride, whereby I would be considering my own feelings to be more important than sharing God’s word. Let that never be so!

So while I am a firm believer in  refraining from being judgemental, much preferring to encourage than rebuke; I am also a firm believer in following the guidance of the Holy Spirit and ask God’s forgiveness for my tardiness.

 Typically, pride most commonly arises for the self, but people can be proud of things to, such as status, cars, companies, achievements etc. In fact, for anything, which the person considers to be more important than God, other people or living as Christ would like them to. 

Simply put, pride is that which seeks to assert itself against God’s way, for the sake of having its own way. The part of us that decides we want to do and say whatever it is that we want, rather than that which may be the more Godly thing to do. 

Pride can manifest itself in a variety of ways, from the desire to put ourselves first, refusing to do things we consider beneath us, looking down on others we consider to be more lowly than ourselves (in any way) and desiring worldly status and praise etc. 

These are symptoms of thinking of yourself more highly than others, or at least wanting to be perceived as such, when we are told that we should consider others more highly than ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4). Therein lies the danger, pride puts you at risk of elevating your own self worth and opinion to a such a degree that it prevents you from showing the love and consideration commanded of us by Christ, the love that would identify us as His disciples (John 13:34-35; 14:21-24). In short, pride can lead us astray from the straight and narrow way which leads us back to God and our salvation (Matthew 7:12-14; 2 Peter 2:20-22; Proverbs 4:26-27, 12:28, 14:2,12, 15:10).

How does God see Pride:

God hates pride (Proverbs 8:13), in Proverbs 6:16-19, a “proud look” is listed as one of the seven things that God hates as they are an abomination to Him. God also names pride as one of the sins of Sodom, which He destroyed (Ezekiel 16:49; Genesis 19:1-29).

It makes God weep when our pride stops us from hearing Him as it shows that His flock, you, have been taken captive (Jeremiah 13:15-17).

God warns us to turn us from our sin and instructs us so that “He may turn man aside from his conduct, And keep man from pride”  thereby saving us from destruction (Job 33:14-18). In Zephaniah 3:11-12, He speaks of when He will remove the proud, exulting people and haughtiness, leaving a humble people in their place.

Consequences of Pride:

Pride is not of God (1 John 2:16), it deceives you (Obadiah 1:3), defiles you (Mark 7:20-23); hardens the spirit (Daniel 5:20); brings you low (Proverbs 29:23), adorns the wicked (Psalms 73:1-6) and is a sign of a fool (Proverbs 14:3) and a scoffer (Proverbs 21:24). It can also explain a lack of response from God (Job 35:12).

Remaining proud leads to: shame (Proverbs 11:2); strife (Proverbs 13:10); destruction (Proverbs 16:18); captivity (Jeremiah 13:17) and leads to God to bringing about the fall of the proud (Amos 6:8; Obadiah 1:3-4). It was in fact pride that lead to the downfall of the devil and we are warned against becoming puffed up with pride lest we fall into the same condemnation (1 Timothy 3:6).

How To Deal With Pride:

Jesus named pride as one of the evil things which comes from the heart of men and defiles them (Mark 7:20-23). This makes it clear that pride is something we should seek to eliminate from our lives and the bible provides guidance on how to do this.

Pride can lead to us trying to do things in our own strength and according to our own plans, rather than God’s. If done knowingly, this is prideful arrogance for those who call Him master. The bible gives us excellent advice telling us to  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). We are warned against boasting about our own plans, such boasting being called evil, and are advised to say “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-17). This acknowledges who the Boss in your life is and invites God to redirect you if He would rather you did something else (Proverbs 16:9; 19:21).

Pride may cause you to want others to recognise how special you believe yourself to be, when in reality, we are meant to be here to show people how special God is. The apostle Paul warned everyone “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think“, which is surely a work of pride (Romans 12:3). Rather, we should seek to emulate the selflessness modelled by the life of Jesus and in the words of Paul who said “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). If we truly lay down our lives, pick up our cross daily and die to self as we were instructed to do  there would be no self left to want recognition for (Matthew 10:38; 16:24, Luke 9:23-24).

As Christians we are told that we are to lay aside the old self (or old man) and put on the new man (Ephesians 4:22-32) and that we should not walk in the flesh, but walk in the spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). The works (or deeds) of the flesh listed by Paul in verses 19-21 could all be said to have their roots in pride, for if we thought more of others and less of ourselves, we would not exhibit behaviours such as hatred and selfish ambitions. Conversely, the fruits of the spirit he lists (before concluding with a warning for us not to become conceited) include love, longsuffering, peace and other desirable characteristics which a person struggling with pride might find difficult to attain (Galatians 5:22-26).

Thus part of our daily christian walk should be to emulate those characteristics encouraged and modelled by our Lord. To lay down the self and pride which, while it may seem to be protecting us and our desires, is actually destroying us from within. Pride is like a virus that contaminates us and those in the world around us, the only cure for which is a true revelation of Gods love and deciding to walk in that love day by day.

While we will all struggle with elements of pride/self while we are here, it is how we view and treat pride when it arises that defines us. When we see that there is pride in us, let us deal with it in the way God would desire, repent and ask Him for forgiveness and guidance. If your pride has caused offence to others, then go to make ammends with them as we are advised (see earlier post on Dealing with Offences). We are told to take up our cross daily, likewise, we have to lay down our self daily too, this includes our pride. For surely, if there was no self, there would be no pride!

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Free Daily Christian Teachings, Publications, Radio and TV

UCB (United Christian Broadcasters), is a Christian media ministry formed to promote the good news of Jesus Christ, has recently launched a new DAB Radio christian channel,  UCB UK. UCB’s radio stations include UCB UK, Inspirational, Gospel and Bible. There is also a UCB TV Channel and a  prayerline you can telephone/email or text.

The UCB network also publishes free publications which can be posted out, emailed or read online.

The publications are made for varied age groups from children through to adults and include “The Word for Today“, “Word 4u 2day“, “The book of Hope” and “The Overcoming Series” amongst others.

Those wishing to support this exciting project, can donate here.

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Walking with Jesus: Dealing with Offence

As we reflect upon the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the original good Friday, we are reminded of the many sufferings He endured for our sakes and why it was necessary (John 3:13-21). Yet, despite all He was put through, the last thing He asked for before He died was for God to forgive those that killed Him (Luke 23:34). Jesus suffered great offences at the hands of those He came to save and He modelled for us a level of forgiveness we, as His followers, strive to attain.

Forgiveness is a vital aspect of the Christian walk for as we forgive others, so shall we be forgiven (Matthew 6:14-15). Guidance on how we Christians should deal with offence with fellow believers has been revealed to us in the Bible, both for when we offend others, and when others offend us:

When you offend another: We are told in Matthew 5:22-24 “that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

Jesus is basically telling us that repenting and seeking reconciliation takes precedence over you seeking God further and demonstrates the speed in which He would like reconciliation to be sought, ie not delayed!

When someone has offended you: We are told to “rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive” (Luke 17:3-4; Matthew 18:15-17 ). Furthermore, if that person sins against us 7 times in a day but turns to us and asks for forgiveness, we must forgive. Jesus set us the example of calling others to repentance (Luke 5:32; Revelation 3:19) but rebuking others that go astray was also endorsed throughout the old testament (Psalms 141:5, Proverbs 9:7-9, 19:25).

Likewise, the New Testament is littered with confirmations of the need for us to correct others, though we should remember that this should be done from love (2 Timothy 2:22-25; 4:2; Titus 1:13; 2:14-15).

If the one that has caused offence refuses to hear you, Matthew 18:16-17 tells us “But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector“.

Although being corrected can feel uncomfortable, to say the least, correcting each other is a necessary tool God encourages us to carry out. Below are some of the benefits that can arise from dealing with issues of offence in ways ordained by God:

It is important to remember to deal with offences from a place of love, seeking restoration and healing, rather than revenge (2 Timothy 2:22-25). We are instructed to forgive others when we pray (Mark 11:25-26) if we follow this, then the act of rebuking one who wrongs you is for their benefit so they may turn aside from ways which do not honour God and know that they have been forgiven. For when a person is open to correction and they are made aware that they have caused harm, they can benefit from the opportunity by repenting and being forgiven.

Repentance and forgiveness are the core message of the gospel which Jesus came to share. That if you repent, your Heavenly Father will forgive you and you will be saved (Acts 3:18-19; Luke 13:1-3 2 Timothy 2:24-26). Thus, repentance and forgiveness are not enemies but friends and where we see that they may be necessary, let us not hesitate to answer the calling of our Lord.

Further discussions on Christianity, offence and apologies can be seen in The Mountain Retreat forum.

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