Biblical Leadership

“The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12 ESV)

It has been my passion for several years to know what the Bible says about leadership within the context of the local church. I grew up in the typical Deacon Led Southern Baptist Church setting and it was in this setting that I first made my profession of faith. I have seen many wonderful, godly brothers lead well and God bless this type of structure, despite its inherent weakness. I have also seen what happens when this system goes…..well….bad. In all fairness and disclosure, just a few years ago, I experienced a good system that had been hijacked and run into the ground because unqualified men were leading in unbiblical ways through their strong arm tactics and unaccountable leadership. So, I recognize that because imperfect men lead the church, difficulties will arise, even in a good and healthy system. However, a thoroughly Biblical model of leadership will go a long way in aiding the local church to love Jesus and fulfill the great commission effectively. In other words, when the Bible is applied in the area of Biblical church leadership, that structure will spur the church to Biblical health and vitality.

Leadership Structure And The Local Church

Into this discussion, some, like author Donald G. Miller will state that; “No particular structure of church life is divinely ordained.” (Miller 1957, 82) Many like Donald Miller will argue that because we do not have a specific model prescribed for us in the NT there is not a single model for the church to follow. However, does this mean that no model is described for us in the NT? The answer is, yes there absolutely is. Yet, because a majority of congregational churches traded in a Biblical model for a business model (Pastor as CEO and Deacons as a Board) many years ago, they continue to greatly misunderstand the reality that the New Testament gives us the principle form of organization for the local church. So, if someone were to ask, “what is the Biblical organization for the local church”?  Many Baptists would simply reply, “whatever structure your local church authorizes”. This answer though undermines the authority of Jesus Christ as the Head of the Church. You see, the Church bows the knee to what God has revealed to us in the pages of sacred Scripture and not our own thoughts or reasoning. Before we get into the offices and the structure though, lets focus on the central tenant of the Church. 

Jesus Christ Is The Head Of The Church

All foundations for understanding of the organization and leadership structure of a local church is this; Jesus Christ is the head of the Church! As we look to the NT we see this clearly displayed in the Epistles. Specifically then, we see this clearly displayed in passages such as Colossians 1:15-20.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by[f] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (ESV)

Three observations become apparent from this passage:

  1. The Church was created by Him – “by Him all things were created”
  2. The Church was created through Him- “all things were created through Him”
  3. The Church was created for Him- “all things were created….for Him and He is the head of the body, the church.”

So, what does any of this mean for the local church?

  1. Any form of church government where men are exalted and given supremacy is unbiblical and therefore, wicked and wrong.
  2. As a Biblical (I use this word purposefully here) group of elders (presbyters, pastors, overseers) lead the church the offices of Christ are clearly on display (i.e. prophet, priest and king). What I mean is that no one man can lead like a plurality of godly, Biblically qualified men. This is due to the fact that no one man has all of the abilities required to shepherd and lead God’s people.
  3. Every leader must be held Biblically accountable to execute their office for the glory of God and the good of the local church. If they do not, they should be immediately disciplined and removed. If a congregation does not, then they partake of the sin and abuse of the elders that they permit.

 

Until next time……

Soli Deo Gloria




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Spiritual War

It has become clear to me over the years that Chrisitans do not like the idea of the Christian life being a struggle. Even more than that, many like less the idea that the Christian life is a spiritual battle. In America today, we seem to have become lulled into an easy, path of least resistance “Christianity”. At this point many Christians would be happy singing the  Edwin Starr song, “War”. I bet, even now some of you had those lyrics jump into your head….go ahead, admit it….you’re singing right now:

War, huh yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, oh hoh, oh
War huh yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again y’all.

When it comes to the Christian life though, this sentiment is simply not true. A call to Christian discipleship is a call to spiritual war. Allow me to be extremely careful and clear at this point, the Scripture (and I am simply emphasizing what the Scriptures say) is speaking of Spiritual Warfare. What does the Bible mean by spiritual warfare? The Dictionary Of Bible Themes defines spiritual warfare in this way, “The struggle against the forces of evil, which is a constant feature of the life of faith. Scripture locates the origins of spiritual warfare in the rebellion of Satan and his angels against God and affirms the hope of God’s final victory over such forces through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.” While I think this is an adequete definition, I would also include our fight against indwelling sin and the influence of the World.

The Christian lives with the reality that the battle against Satan, the Flesh and the World surround us; however, these things cannot overcome the Believer in Jesus Christ. So, be encouraged believer that our God has overcome and has given us the victory in Jesus Christ our Lord. We then fight daily in the power of God having been given His provision, as God says in 2 Corinthians 10:4For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”  What does that mean?  In Ephesians 6:14-18 we are told what our, “weapons” are:

  1. The Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18)
  2. Truth (Eph. 6:14)
  3. Righteousness (Eph. 6:14)
  4. The Gospel (2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 6:15)
  5. Faith (Eph 6:16)
  6. Salvation (Eph 6:17)
  7. Word of God (Eph. 6:17)
  8. Prayer (Eph. 6:18)

These, “weapons” may not seem like much; however, we must remember the promise of 2 Corinthians 10:4, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” We do not fight with weapons of this world because our fight is not against flesh and blood (other human beings). Instead, it is a daily battle to fight for our joy in Christ. As a believer in Jesus Christ, here is my encouragement for you.

  • Realize that we are engaged in real spiritual conflict. As a result, we aren’t powerful enough to fight against the world, the flesh or the devil in our own strength, instead, we need to stand in the power of God.
  • Pray for your friends and family members, coworkers, etc. as you share the gospel with them and others.
  • Fill your mind and heart with God’s word. It, along with prayer are the only offensive weapons in the Christian’s aresenal.
  • We are victorious in Christ over our spiritual enemies because on the cross Jesus Christ destroyed the works of the Devil.

As you think on these things today may you know the peace of Christ and the comfort of Christ as we together fight for our joy in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit in accordance with the Word of God!

Soli Deo Gloria

Gospel Discipline And The Local Church

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:15-20 ESV)

“I’ve never known a man worth his salt who in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline.” –Vince Lombardi

Before I begin discussing the need for church discipline within the context of the local church I want to start with a confession. I have personally seen church discipline applied in one of two very wrong ways. The first is to completely neglect the idea of church discipline. The second is very personal to me, for a number of reasons. I have seen church discipline misapplied in a very wicked and wrong way. I have seen elders who were more concerned with keeping people in line than they were for caring for the souls of the people under their care. They have never repented and I do not know if they ever will. I leave them to Christ to do what He deems best and pray for the people who are willingly causing their souls distress (whether they realize it or not) by staying under such wicked leadership. Instead of being an exercise in Biblical church discipline this particular group of elders turned it into a Cult like demand for obedience to their will. With that said, the misapplication or neglect of church discipline does not nullify the need for good, Biblical church discipline within the life of the local church.  Because of this experience, I have chosen to call church discipline, “gospel discipline”. This isn’t just a theological slight of hand or an expedient reordering of words to hide what is really meant. Instead, I think this helps us get to the heart of identifying the “what”, “why” and “how” of church discipline.

Gospel Discipline?

What do I mean when I use the word, “gospel discipline”? Simply, gospel discipline is the regular practice of helping one another find our identity in the gospel and then live out that gospel identity in every area of our lives within the context and framework of the local church. Often, this practice is called, “Church Discipline”. However, as I have already explained, I prefer to use the phrase, gospel discipline due to the lack of clarity or comprehensiveness of the phrase, “church discipline”. Why? There are at least two reasons. First, church discipline is often connected with corrective discipline. Rarely does someone hear the phrase, “church discipline” and connect that phrase to its broader understanding of aiding the believer to become more like Christ through positive and affirming means. Second, and the point I want to emphasize, is that we want to make disciples who see the gospel as the necessary grounds of fighting for their joy in Christ (and the tragic consequences of not believing the gospel). This is the manner in which I believer Scripture calls all believers and churches to tackle this subject: formatively and correctively.

Formative Gospel Discipline

Mark Dever notes that discipline, “in a broader sense, discipline is everything the church does to help its members pursue holiness and fight sin.”[1]. This formative discipline covers:

  • Worship
  • Fasting
  • Preaching
  • Teaching
  • Prayer
  • The Sacraments (Lord’s Supper And Baptism)
  • Personal Bible study
  • Mission Involvement
  • Family Worship
  • Family Catechism

Two Scriptural examples of formative gospel discipline is:

 

Corrective Gospel Discipline 

When the local church believes in the responsibility and necessity of gospel discipline as clearly outlined in Scripture, God pours out His blessings on His people. Even in affirming this truth, corrective gospel discipline is a very difficult area. Nevertheless, gospel discipline has the divine authority of Scripture and is vital to the health of the local church. In corrective gospel discipline, the underlying guard for applying this truth must be a sincere love and embracing of grace by the local church and pastors. Following this underlying foundation, the following should be affirmed and applied.

  • The discipline of the church is patterned after the Lord’s discipline of His children (Heb. 12:6) and the Lord has delegated the discipline of the church to the church.
  • Discipline is further based on the holiness of God (1 Pet. 1:16; Heb. 12:11). Stated simply, the church is not to tolerate wickedness (1 Cor. 5:6-8).
  • Gospel discipline must be patterned after and based upon the divine commands of Scripture and the authority of Scripture (1 Cor. 5:1-13; Matt. 18:17-18; Titus 3:10; 2 Thess. 3:6-15; 1 Tim. 5:20; Gal. 6:1).
  • The necessity of gospel discipline is the testimony of the church in the world. The world observes the behavior and life of the church. When the church acts no differently than the world it loses its credibility and authenticity (1 Pet. 2:11-18; 3:8- 16; 4:1-4).

Let me close by simply stating, we must make sure that gospel discipline, in both formative and corrective ways must be accomplished in the power of the Holy Spirit, in alignment with the Scripture and in great humility, love, gentleness and patience, realizing that we also are sinners in need of grace and mercy (Gal. 6:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:24-25). Listen, this is important because, if we get this wrong, we will destroy many people. Lets make sure we do gospel discipline well.

Soli Deo Gloria

Suffering And Sovereignty

Thankfully, the Bible does not shy away from the hard issues. Suffering is one such issue. Suffering is hit head on from the very beginning by giving an explanation of why there is pain and suffering and yet, all the while, continually affirming God’s sovereign rule over this world and the suffering experienced in this world. The reality is, faith in Jesus Christ does not keep the people of God from suffering and we find in life and on the pages of Scripture that even God’s people suffer in this world. So, how do we process all of this? How are we supposed to respond in the face of suffering as those who belong to God through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ? I want to highlight 8 truths from Scripture that will help us see how God uses suffering in the life of the Christian.

1. We Will Not Always Understand Why We Suffer (God Doesn’t Always Explain The, “Why”)

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:14 ESV)

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,(1 Peter 3:18 ESV)”

2. God uses suffering to bring us into a closer relationship with Him

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Hebrews 2:10 ESV)

3. God Uses Suffering to Refine His People

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 ESV)

4. God Uses Suffering to Bring Repentance

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. (Hebrews 12:5-6 ESV)

5. God Uses Suffering to Reveal His Grace

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1 Peter 4:19 ESV)

6. God Uses Suffering to Bring Repentance

Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another. (Isaiah 48:10-11 ESV)

7. God uses Suffering to make us sympathetic counselors  to those undergoing suffering

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7 ESV)

8. God uses suffering to bless His people

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,  “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31-39 ESV)

As God’s people, may we take comfort that while suffering may touch our lives, God is not taken by surprise by our suffering nor has he left us to suffer on our own. We have a Great High Priest who knows our suffering and aids us in our times of suffering (Hebrews 4:14-16). May we entrust our heats to His tender and loving care at all times and trust Him.

Holiness Not Required? (Pt. 2)

A Helpful Illustration

I heard a story a few years ago that went something like this (I have forgotten where I heard this); one summer, a father gathered his two sons and told them that he had a job for them. Behind their home was a small grove of trees that he wanted cut down and the stumps uprooted. The trees were located among blackberry bushes, poison ivy, and other smaller trees. Although the two sons had never done such a job, they agreed to remove the trees. Their father provided them an axe, a shovel, and a short saw, every tool that was required to complete the job. The young men went to work and the job was completed after several weeks of sweat and hard work. In celebration of this accomplishment, the father and his sons burned the huge pile of trees, vines, and debris. It was a task that could not have been achieved without the right tools and the desire to use them.

The same is true for the Christian life. It is of great importance that we know the ‘what’ and the ‘why’s’ of the Christian faith. After all, the Scripture is clear that every Christian must be grounded in Biblical truth and able to give a defense of that truth (1 Peter 3:15). The problem is, if we only dwell in the land of the why and what of our beliefs, without ever applying them, we are in danger of either seriously stunting our spiritual growth or possessing a faith that cannot and will not save (James 2:14-19). In the first post, I laid out a Biblical case for the pursuit of holiness. In this post, I would like to share a few tools that will be most helpful to us in our pursuit.

The Tools For Pursuing Holiness

The Word Of God (Bible)
The Bible has been given to us so that we can know God. It is not a history book, a math book (although it does contains these things) and it most certainly is not a self help book. The Bible encourages us to pursue personal and corporate holiness as we;

  • listen to it in the context of the local church (sermons and lessons)
  • read it (personally and as a part of our corporate worship gatherings)
  • study it
  • memorize passages of Scripture
  • thinking through what God’s Word says and how it applies to my life.

Prayer
Charles Haddon Spurgeon has stated, “No man can be in the kingdom of heaven who does not pray.” Prayer is a vital part of the believer’s walk but how do we pray? Jesus’ model prayer in Matthew 6 serves as one example:

  • Worship: Our Father!!! Who is in heaven
  • Praise: Hallowed (Holy) be Your name
  • Petition For The Gospel To Spread: Your Kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
  • Reliance: Give us this day our daily bread
  • Confession: Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors
  • Protection: Do not lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
  • Praise: For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen (NASB)

Holy Spirit
We can accomplish nothing of lasting value apart from God’s work in our hearts and lives. The believer then is called upon, not to live in his or her own power but in submission to the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. As R.C. Sproul, in his book, “Essential Truths of the Christian Faith” has noted, “The Spirit comforts, guides, and teaches the elect (John 16). These activities are done in a manner that involves intelligence, will, feeling, and power. He searches, selects, reveals, comforts, convicts and admonishes. Only a person could do these things. The response of the Christian, then, is not mere affirmation that such a being exists, but rather, to obey, love and adore the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity”.

Evangelism
The church’s mission (which is expressed as we corporately and individually live on mission daily) to the world is evangelistic. That is to say that we are to corporately and individually bring the saving message of Christ to those who do not belong to Jesus Christ through faith. The pastors of the local church are charged with training and coaching the church (corporately and individually) to engage their local community with the gospel.

Gathering With Other Believers
The Christian life is not meant to be lived in isolation. God has graciously given us the gifts of corporate worship, fellowship and accountability and the ordinances (just to name a few) and has tied our furtherance in holiness with sharing life with other believers. (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Recommendations
While what I have laid out for us in this post is far from exhaustive, my hope and prayer is that we will begin (if we haven’t already) to fight for your joy in Jesus Christ through the daily pursuit of holiness. If you are interested in reading more on this topic then I would recommend:

  • Anything by Jerry Bridges
  • Spiritual Disciplines For The Christian Life by Don Whitney
  • Pursuing Holiness In The Lord by Jonathan Edwards
  • The Hole In Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung.

Grace And Peace

Holiness Not Required?

“and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:23-24)

Defining Our Terms

Holiness. Let that word hang in the air for a moment. It is a word that seems to have been all but banished from the vocabulary of many Christians. What is meant by the word, “holiness”? Scripture reveals that holiness is used, at least when it comes to the believer, in two ways. The first is that the believer in Jesus Christ is set apart for God and second, it speaks of an increase in moral and ethical purity. This does not imply an academic or legalistic pursuit but is instead a pursuit based upon God’s transforming work through the gospel.

Not In Vogue

Unfortunately, there are some, through their lackadaisical attitude toward what it means to be a member of a local church has greatly contributed to this downward spiral of holiness within the local church. Please, don’t misunderstand what I am saying, belonging to a local church can be very messy at times (sometimes we struggle to get along, see eye to eye on various topics and sometimes people struggle and fall into sin). However, I fear that in our desire for pseudo unity, growth or any number of other reasons we have allowed the idea of holiness to fall by the proverbial way. I probably shouldn’t have to state the obvious but I will, holiness is not in vogue. Of course, I don’t think holiness has ever been in vogue (just look throughout history, even Church history). Holiness is not the cool kid on the block and it certainly doesn’t appear to be the cool or hip thing to speak of or pursue. Think about it, when was the last time you heard of a group of Christian men gathering together just to celebrate the pursuit of holiness (and I am not speaking of legalism, since that would not be pursuing holiness, it would be self-righteous drivel)?

Pursuing Holiness

What becomes clear from the passage I quoted above is that part of the “new self” we Christians are instructed to, “put on” (notice that this is a command) is, “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (There’s that word again).  The writer of Hebrews adds commentary on this thought when he says, “ Strive for…the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” That has a way of grabbing our attention doesn’t it? I mean, listen again, if we call ourselves Christians and we are not pursuing holiness, we will not see the Lord. So, within these two passages of Scripture (and there are many more we could look at) we find a warning as well as the ground and goal of the pursuit of holiness. The warning in Hebrews 12 (that is also implied in Ephesians 4) is that without holiness (purity of life) we will never see the Lord. To be sure, the point is that the Lord provides this purity and holiness but holiness is also something that is to be fought for, to be actively pursued daily and is guided by the Lord’s hand (Hebrews 12:3-13). All of this comes with an encouragement. If we are in Christ, the ground for taking up this fight is our being in “Christ”. However, it also comes with a goal; “we will see the Lord”. In, “The Pursuit Of Holiness“, a book that I would highly recommend, Jerry Bridges, seeks to strike this balance between the Christian’s  responsibility in pursuing holiness and God’s responsibility  in forming holiness in the  believer’s life by employing an illustration of a farmer. Just like the farmer must till the ground, sow the seed  and harvest the crop, the  Christian is to be busy in the work of holiness,  developing the character and traits  that God has  made them responsible for cultivating (ex. obedience, daily intake of God’s word, prayer, fasting, etc.)  However, just like the farmer, who may make all the necessary preparations for a harvest, there still exists external elements that the farmer simply cannot control (sunshine, rain, etc.), likewise, the believer’s pursuit of holiness can only be formed by God’s work in that believer.  For instance, while  the believer  is to work toward personal holiness it is God who empowers that work through the power and work of the Holy Spirit (Philippians 2:12-13).

My we find our joy in Christ and therefore live for and fight for our joy. My next post will examine some specific ways that we can fight for our joy in Christ through the pursuit of holiness. Until then, Blessings.

Encouraging One Another

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)

Have you ever thought about how certain events, words, situations, people, etc. are able to greatly encourage us? Think about it, we can be going through some of the most dark and difficult days in our lives, then suddenly and graciously, God brings people into our lives that greatly encourages our hearts. One of these times occurred for me shortly after I accepted the call to become the preaching pastor of my former church. I was having a conversation with an older, retired pastor in that congregation (who has since gone on to be with the Lord) simply sharing with him my fears and worries about the task of working for revitalization in that particular church. With great kindness this brother stopped me and began to remind me of God’s faithfulness and grace for the task ahead and to encourage me from God’s Word. Perhaps you have had times like that in your life, times where for no apparent reason, God sent someone or perhaps a group of people into your life who greatly encouraged you.

Encouragement As Obedience

God has called each and every believer to use our words to encourage and help one another. I know, that isn’t always easy, as a matter of fact, it is impossible apart from the work and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Living in submission to the Holy Spirit leads to active obedience and growth in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Having said that however, I do not mean to imply that you and I have no active part in obedience. After all, it is God that is at work in us to produce good works but we are responsible for the good works (Philippians 2:12-13). So, how do we encourage one another? Well, the text that I quoted at the beginning of this post gives us a two-fold answer. First, we are to stop speaking rotten words and then, secondly, we are to start speaking wholesome (i.e. encouraging) words.

Identifying And Rejecting Rotten Words

When Paul instructed the Ephesian church to, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths” what did he mean? Well the phrase, “corrupting talk” means speech that is rotten. It has the understanding of something that is worthless and of no value. Most people would then use this text to argue (rightly) that this text prohibits the use of “curse words” by those who follow Jesus Christ. However, the text goes well beyond just the prohibition of these words. Worthless speech comes in many different forms:

1)Name-calling, put-downs, & trading insult for insult.
2)Sarcasm, ridicule, mockery
3)Blaming, exaggerated attacks
4)Griping, complaining
5)Destructive criticism
6)Angry words, including threats and revenge
7)Arguments where you seek to win so as to maintain power
8)Deception, lies, and manipulative speech
9)Gossip and slander
10)Profanity
11)Filthy talk and coarse jokes

So, for the follower of Jesus Christ, our words are to be seasoned with the salt and light of the gospel. Everything about us is to reveal the truth that we are fully identified with Jesus Christ. The direct result of this reality is that I willfully choose to reject any language that does not encourage other believers in Jesus Christ. This is why we are encouraged in the scriptures to, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:” (1 Peter 4:8-10 ESV)

Speaking Wholesome Words

Rejecting, rotten words are only the first part of the equation. We must choose to speak words that are helpful and encouraging as well. How do we speak wholesome, good words? The answer is given earlier in Ephesians 4. Ephesians 4:21-24 says, “assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (ESV). So, the answer is quite simple (please note that I did not say EASY). If we are going to use our words in ways that glorify God and builds others up; we must first be transformed through faith in Jesus Christ (i.e. we must be made new in Christ), which means that our minds will be progressively transformed by the gospel and secondly we must start using words that are good and encouraging (examples would include: words of praise, appreciation, gratefulness, loving, patient, kind and gentle and ultimately we are to encourage one another through the Scripture). Think about this, Jesus was full of grace and God through His gift of grace through Jesus Christ has given us much grace. Therefore, God’s grace in Christ should be my motivation for speaking with grace to others. None of this is to say that we cannot and should not have tough conversations. After all, there are times when we must call one another to repent! Let me affirm that there are times when we should and must have those conversations! However, we must be careful that we faithfully guard our hearts even as we have these conversations.

Conclusion

I wish I could tell you that I am perfect at using my language to build up and encourage. However, I must confess that I too am a pilgrim, making my way to heaven by the sheer grace of God. I know this though, there are no excuses for us to not pursue holiness in our words as well as in our hearts and minds. So, together, lets pursue the command to encourage one another, as those who have experienced the grace of God in Jesus Christ for the glory of God.

Pastor Tim