A place for discussion of living out our faith in the context of public service, having a Christlike influence in our offices and on those we serve, and responding to religious persecution at work.
Godly Speech and Godly Wisdom
October 1, 2010 at 5:00 pm #112116
I was going to be teaching on James 3 last night at our local Community Bible Study meeting after the small groups had discussed their study of the chapter. Due to flooding and thurnderstorms, the meeting was cancelled. I won't be able to teach it next week as I will be in Ireland for ministry, so I thought just for the heck of it I would post it here for the reading enjoyment and challenge for anyone who cared to take the time to read it.
I am attaching a file that is a Powerpoint presentation to go with the teaching.
Ever wish you could actually take back something you had said? Or been hurt by what someone said to you. Maybe you’ve been encouraged by someone’s words. Sometimes its not what we say but how we say it. You may have told your special someone in a particularly romantic moment “When I’m with you it seems that time just stands still”. Or you could have said, “Your face would stop a clock”. Both communicate the same truth, but have totally different impacts.
As James points out in this chapter (slide with outline), it not only matters that our words reflect the faith in Christ that we proclaim, but also that our actions should reflect Godly wisdom.
Brian talked last week about the questions that God asked him as he prepared to teach from James 2. This week God took a different approach with me. He took me through a real low and a real high as a result of things people said to me.
First of all, someone very close to me asked me something in a very demeaning way that questioned my priorities as a Christian. Because of who the person is and their perception, which was very wrong from my perspective, that our priorities were not the same, I was left reeling and feeling absolutely crushed.
Then, less than an hour after that, another friend approached me and shared that he had been reading ‘The Silence of Adam’ and wanted to tell me how much he appreciated our relationship and how much I had spoken into his life. This helped me a lot to crawl out of the pit I was in, especially since I consider this man to just be a casual friend. What an impact our tongues can have, as James tells us in chapter 3.
We probably have all experienced similar impacts of the hurtful or encouraging words of others, and we probably have also been the source of them. I’m sure we would all desire to say those things that are encouraging and uplifting like Paul commanded us in (slide) Eph 4: 29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” But we find that instead we say things that are not wholesome and not edifying. Why is that? Jesus tells us why in (slide) Matt 15: 18-19, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”
The problem is that we have an evil heart ... (slide) Jer 17: 9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?”. Our hearts and our thoughts need to be changed to be more Christlike. God told Isaiah in (slide) Isa 55: 8, 9, ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”’
(slide) I found this interesting cartoon that illustrates the point, though it’s depicting a couple rather than God and man. The wife is thinking “When you’ve been married a long time, you get to know what the other person thinks.” And the husband is thinking, “No you don’t.” In the same way, I believe we often think we know what God thinks about something, but we really don’t.
(slide) God tells Isaiah in verses 10 & 11 how to make his thoughts like His own: "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. “
The Word of God is what God Himself has promised to use to accomplish what He desires. It is important to remember that God did not give us His Word to satisfy our curiosity, but to change our lives. How can He do that if we are not doing what Paul commanded in Col 3: 16, to “let the Word of Christ dwell richly within us?” Similarly, David raised a question in Ps 119: 9, ‘How can a young man keep His way pure?’ and then answered it in verse 11, “By living according to your word. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” David recognized that the key to dealing with sin in my life tomorrow is to hide God’s Word in my heart today. His son Solomon talks about wisdom repeatedly in Proverbs with its many benefits, often connected with receiving, accepting, and embracing the Word of God.
So how do we hide God’s Word in our hearts and let it richly dwell within us? There are two key ways: scripture memory and meditation. Meditation is the real key; scripture memory is more of a method that greatly facilitates meditation. When scripture speaks of meditation, it does not speak of it in a mystical, eastern religion sort of way. God told Joshua to meditate on the Word day and night, so that he may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. The focus of meditation is application.
One of the best practices for effective meditation is to bombard the passage with questions. Questions such as:
- What does God want me to apply from this passage?
- What does it mean? What does it mean to me?
- Is there a step of faith that I need to take?
- What theological question does this passage answer?
How does scripture memory facilitate meditation? Simple ... it makes it so that we don’t have to have a Bible handy to read or be listening to the Word being taught in order to meditate on it. Scripture memory makes scripture always available to us. But not only to us. It’s also available to the Holy Spirit to identify sin before we go there, to convict us of sin when we have already strayed, to show us how to live. In fact, 2 Tim 3: 16 provides a great picture of the ways that He can use it.
2 Timothy 3: 16 says, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”. This illustration shows us how these are connected and work together. (slide) First of all, scripture is good for teaching, or showing us the path to walk on. Then, it is good for reproof, or showing us when we get off the right path. Next, it is good for correction, or showing us how to get back on the right path. Finally it is good for training in righteousness, or showing us how to stay on the right path.
I would love to spend an hour sharing in detail how to memorize and meditate on scripture, but we obviously don’t have time for that. So let me just give you some suggestions for effectively memorizing scripture: (slides)
- 3 main keys: Review, Review, Review
- Do it with a partner ... spouse or someone in your study or church
- Make a plan: when to work on memorizing and when to review
- Use verse cards and keep them handy
- Work on meditating as part of memorizing the verse or passage
- Get started ... the hardest part (I just can’t memorize)
We devise all kinds of reasons for not getting started, most really stemming from the fact that we just don’t want to do it because we haven’t seen the value. Also, new habits are always hard to develop, especially as adults. One of the most common excuses for not memorizing scripture is “I just can’t memorize.” You may have even used it yourself.
A few years ago when I was thinking about this excuse, I felt that the Lord spoke to me with an answer to the excuse ... “If you can’t memorize, where did those words come from?” Don’t they come from our memory? Didn’t we not only have to memorize the words, but their meanings and how to put them together into a meaningful sequence to produce a clear understanding?” Unless you have a severe mental condition, you can memorize.
We memorize all kinds of things ... our addresses, phone numbers, friends phone numbers, birthday, anniversaries, a whole slew of things. Why do we memorize these things? Either because we have heard or used them so many times that we remember them without necessarily trying ... through repetition, which is how almost everything is learned and remembered in school. Or we decide that we need to memorize something so that we don’t have to look it up and purposefully commit it to memory. The biggest hurdle to get over in order to memorize is simply the decision to do it.
So, to review, why would we want to memorize and meditate on scripture? To apply what James has been talking about in this chapter ... controlling our tongue and demonstrating wisdom by our actions, both of which are influenced mostly by how we think. Memorizing and meditating on scripture help us and train our minds to think in a more Christlike manner so that we do those things more naturally.
I will be delighted to interact further with anyone who wants to know more about effectively memorizing scripture and meditating on it. Either talk with me here, email me at [email protected], or call me at 604-2740. (slide)
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