Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say
When you came to faith, trust, and rely on Jesus Christ for cleansing you from sin and giving you eternal life, He placed His Holy Spirit inside of you to begin transforming you into someone that thinks, speaks, and acts like Him. In fact we could define sin as anything that God would not think, do, or say. Our problem is that when we enter into God?s family we are ?pardoned rebels.? That rebellious attitude and the thinking patterns from this age still pervade our character.
Starting in Chapter 4, verse 25, Paul gets really practical as he gives exhortations to ?put away? that old way of thinking and ?put on? the God way of thinking. That old way starts on the inside, with lies inspired by the enemy, which grow into anger, and eventually come out in what we say and what we do.
The aim with this new life is for us to have the same sort of attitude and action towards each other as God has for us?forgiving our wrongs and welcoming us into His family to build us up and help us grow.
In verse 28 Paul focuses on action?of stopping thievery and embrace hard work?all so that we can be a benefit to someone else in need with our what we do. Today he says basically the same thing with the way we talk.
Remember the old advertisement: ?People judge you by the words you use.? Well, God judges our words and if we do not choose our words wisely we make Him sad.
Back in verse 28 Paul says: ?don?t take what?s not yours but work hard so you?ll have something to give another in need.? Here he uses that same idea with speech. When we open our mouths we have a choice to either take from someone by breaking them down, or to give them something by building them up.
The word ?foul? here is used of rotten trees bearing rotten fruit and of rotten fish. ?Foul language? doesn?t just mean cussing, though I think that would be in view, but words that are ?harmful? or ?unwholesome?. The question we need to ask ourselves before we utter a word is: will my words help this person or harm them?
Paul says speaking a word that builds is like giving grace?unmerited favor?to someone else in need, and we are all in need of healthy relationships and people that will speak grace into our lives.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself about what you say:
- Will it make me feel better or them?
- Will it make me look good or them?
- Will it discourage or encourage them to trust more in Jesus?
- Does it express anger or love?
- Will it be something I might want to take back later?
Sometimes our words are corrective or exhortative. That?s okay, as long as the goal is to encourage strength and growth, not send them into discouragement or depression, or anger back at you.
The next verse is often pulled from its context, but relates specifically to this exhortation to speak words that build rather than break down, and it involves who is listening to your conversations.
In the wonderful forgiveness that we find in Jesus we often forget that the God who forgave is still just as pure and holy as ever. He?s the same God whose presence caused the Israelites to shake in terror (Exodus 19) and the same God who told Moses that no one can see His face and live (Exodus 33:20).
This same God is listening to every word you speak. Jesus said in Matthew 12: 36 ?I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.?
Thanks be to God that we have been forgiven by the blood of Christ, but that forgiveness does not give us license to say hurtful things to one another. When we do, it causes pain and sadness to the Holy Spirit.
Why is this important? Because of what Paul calls ?the day of redemption.? In other places it?s called the Day of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:2, 1 Corinthians 1:8, 5:5, 2 Corinthians 1:14) or the ?day of Christ? (Phil 1:6, 10, 2:16). The point is that one day Jesus is going to ?redeem? His people?our salvation will be fully realized. We will be present with Jesus and will physically help Him rule this universe. Do you want to face Him, knowing your words have made Him sad?
So next, Paul sums up this part of the chapter?pointing out the differences in what bubbles up from the flesh and gives rise to destruction thoughts, words, and actions?and the result of the Spirit?s renovation in our hearts.
31 ? 32
Bitterness (hatred) and malice (a desire to harm another) is what we harbor in our minds. Hebrews 12:15 speaks about a ?root of bitterness.? When you let hurt pride, jealousy and envy take hold of your thoughts, it will burn and grow and eventually make its ways out in harmful speech (anger, shouting, slander) and harmful deeds (wrath). Paul tells us to let these things ?be removed? from our thoughts, words, and deeds. The Greek word means: ?to bear away that which is been raised up.? It reminds me of a skeet shoot. We yell ?pull? and someone releases the skeet. We then take aim and fire. Paul here has raised up the issue of how we think, act, and speak?pointing out what is and what is not like the character of our God.
Now our job is to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to remove those things from us, and perhaps seek someone else to help us?that might be a trusted brother or sister, or a trusted Christian professional.
Ecclesiastes 4:9 ?Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. 10 For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm? 12 And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.?
A brother or sister, or a Christian counselor can help us see ourselves more clearly and help guide us into healthy thought patterns that work their way into healthy speaking and acting.
But what does that look like? What is a healthy person in God?s kingdom like? That?s in the next verse
There are three characteristics Paul highlights?which are the opposite of what he has just described. These are the character traits of the Lord God of the universe, and He wants to infect us with that same character. Those traits are kindness, compassion, and forgiveness.
Kindness: The root of the word chrestos (kray?-stose) is ?to be useful.? In your relationships, conversations, thought life and actions: are you being useful or of a benefit to the other? This is the opposite of anger and malice, which is all about me exacting something on you or extracting something from you.
Compassionate: The Greek word literally means: ?to have strong bowels.? The way we would say it today is: do you have a tender heart? It?s actually very easy for us to get testy with another person. They say something that hurts us; they don?t perform up to our expectations or disappoint us in some way. We feel hard towards them, or even angry. Instead of getting angry, try to understand what the other person is feeling, and then think about ways you can help them grow in their relationship with you and with God.
Forgiveness: You were no ?find? when God came upon you. You had nothing deserving of forgiveness. Yet through the sacrifice of Jesus, God forgave you?and justified you?made it as if you?d never sinned. Paul is saying that kind of attitude ought to be the default way we act towards one another. Don?t hold onto bitterness but let it go in forgiveness. I?m not saying just let everyone walk all over you and never say anything?if there is a discipleship issue that needs to be addressed then address it in love and gentleness?but again, it is focused on how you can help build up the other, even if that means you forgive instead of lashing out. God would have been justified in lashing out against us in wrath, but He chose instead to forgive. We can do the same.
Paul finishes up by summing up how we are to live in this new character: imitate God:
Just as God dearly loves you?so much so that He died for you?we should take that same attitude towards others. Love?that ?other centered affection??should rule our character. Yes it is sacrificial. Yes it?s hard to do. You have to fight against every tendency of your old way of thinking every time. But the more you do it?letting the hurts roll off your shoulders?seeking how you can help the other person even if it means you get hurt?God sees this as a fragrant aroma just like He saw the sacrifices in the Old Testament.
We can practice this kind of character in all our relationships: at home with our spouses and kids, at work with our bosses and employees, in our friendships and even with acquaintances. We are sometimes so focused on ?doing great things for God? when something that God really approves of is right in front of us in every conversation. It starts with trying to put ourselves in the other person?s shoes. How can I help them starting from where they are at, not from where I am at or where I think they should be.
I would encourage you this week to read through this portion of Ephesians 4 and 5 and really ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you how you react in the old ways, and ask Him for forgiveness and for a new way of thinking and speaking and acting. We will fail at this, repeatedly. Remember, God isn?t mad at you, but He is listening, so be careful little mouth what you say.