A Transformed Life of Labor, Love, and Godly Speech (Ephesians Sermon 29 of 54)
February 28, 2016 | Andy Davis
Sanctification, Holiness, The Purity and Unity of the Church
The Good Samaritan
As we come to today's text, we're coming to two moral issues, issues of the virtuous life, and I've really been pondering these two issues, and thinking about my own life. And in my pondering as I'm led to consider one of Jesus' most famous parables, it's in Luke chapter 10. Don't turn there, but just listen, you're very familiar with it. It's the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus taught it to people who asked Him, adversaries really, who asked Him concerning the two great commandments, to “love God with all of our heart, and love our neighbor as ourselves,” and someone challenged Him saying, "Who is my neighbor?" And Jesus told the parable, the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan.
I'll never forget a mentor of mine, a man that I worked with in the North Shore of Massachusetts, did a great ministry with orphans, with refugees, and others, tremendous ministry, Nick Granitsas, and he preached a sermon on the Good Samaritan, and I never forget how he laid it out. You know the story of the Good Samaritan, how there was a man that was traveling, just a traveler going from Jericho on the road. And suddenly, some highway robbers assaulted him, and beat him, and stripped him and took all of his possessions, and left him half-dead and half-naked, laying by the side of the road. And then a priest in turn, and a Levite come and see him and walk right on by, and do not care for his needs. But then comes a Samaritan who sees the need, goes over and cares for his wounds, binds him up, puts him on his own animal, takes him down to an innkeeper, stays with him all that crucial night, gets him through the night, then pays him money, the innkeeper, money, to care for him until he should return. And what Pastor Granitsas said, he said there's different approaches to life that you see in this parable. The robbers look on people on the highway and they say, "What's yours is mine, if I can take it from you." And the priest, and the Levite seeing this man bleeding by the side of the road, say, "What's yours is yours and what's mine is mine," and that's that. Live and let live. The innkeeper says, "What's mine is yours for a price." But then there's the Good Samaritan who is a loving neighbor who says, "What's mine is yours, if you need it." I never forgot that.
But in my mind this morning, as I'm thinking about the injunction, the command to the church in Ephesus, that they should stop stealing, I'm thinking about Daniel's comments about what kind of bride Jesus is taking on here. A bride characterized by thievery. And then I think about my own life, and I think about sins that I do struggle with and don't struggle with. And as a preacher, I'm thinking about relevance, and I'm wondering how many thieves I'm going to speak to this morning. The Lord led me to consider this parable, this morning. I was just pondering it. And I was thinking I want to continue the parable.
The Parable Continued
The Good Samaritan, we try to find ourselves in it, we don't want to be the robber, we don't want to be the priest and the Levite. The innkeeper, he has a job to do, but we are called on to something better, to love our neighbor sacrificially, etcetera, so we want to see ourselves in there. For me, as I look at it, Jesus is the Good Samaritan, He's the one that found us by the ditch in the road, bleeding to death, and He cared for us, He loved us, and as a good neighbor, no one loved in a neighborly way as Jesus. No one fulfilled the law like Jesus. But I want to continue the story. Imagine that Jesus leaves the inn and goes back up the Jericho Road. By evening, He finds the robbers that beat this man up and they're sitting around the campfire and they're looking at today's loot, the plunder that they took, and Jesus goes and walks and stands boldly in their midst. They're startled, because for the most part, you don't want to be out at night along that stretch of road, and in comes this man boldly, and He singles out one of the thieves and says, "You need a Savior. You need a Savior and I am your Savior."
The Thief on the Cross
And so, fast forward 13 chapters later, in Luke's Gospel, to the most famous, perhaps the most famous convert in church history. The thief on the cross. Now, I don't say that he's the same one that was in that group, but he was a thief, he was a robber. That's what he did, and you know what happened with him. Somehow, some way, by the sovereign grace of God, as he was dying on the cross next to Jesus, looked over and saw in Jesus a Savior and a coming king. Where did that vision come from? How Christ crucified, shedding His blood on the cross, for sinners like you and me, he felt was dying for him, rebukes his fellow robber, his fellow thief, who doesn't see it, doesn't have any vision of faith at all, but he says, you know, “Don't you fear God? We're under the sentence of God. We're going to die today. We're thieves and we're getting what we deserve under the law of God, but this man has done nothing wrong." And then he looked over at Jesus and said, with an astonishing boldness, "Remember me when you come in your kingdom." On what basis is this thief going to spend eternity with God in Heaven, what does he have to offer? He has no way to make it right, no way to pay recompense to his victims, there's nothing he can do, there's nothing he has to offer. But he's got the boldness of faith to look over and see in Jesus, a Savior. And I don't know everything he understood, but he knew his own guilt, Jesus' innocence, and the fact that He was a King and He was coming in His kingdom, and the kingdom would be made up of redeemed sinners. Thieves who had repented and been saved by simple faith, not by works. And Jesus gave him that beautiful assurance, "Today, you'll be with Me in paradise." On what basis? On what basis do sinners like that find salvation? On what basis will that thief sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven, on what basis? On the basis of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, on the basis of simple faith, not by works. That's how thieves are redeemed from their thieving.
The Gospel Alone Produces Godly Living
A Sin We All Commit
Now, you may look at that and say, you know, as we come to this passage, "I don't really steal." And as a pastor, what I could do is I could find perhaps ways that you didn't realize you were stealing and convict you of that, etcetera and I could do that, but I want you to step back and look with me in a bigger picture, okay? First of all, whether you suffer from that particular set of symptoms or another particular set of symptoms or another, remember how Jesus said, "The healthy don't need a doctor but the sick. I've not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." For you to say, "You know, I don't have that set of symptoms, I don't struggle with stealing," well, just thank God that you've never been in an economic situation which the Book of Proverbs says we can understand in the context of adultery, says we can understand a man stealing, if he's desperately hungry, we can understand it, but we're still going to make him pay fourfold for what he took. We understand that. Well then, thank God that you were born in a wealthy country, and born to wealthy parents and got a good education, you never needed to steal. But what I've learned to do is say there is no sin pattern that exists that I couldn't commit. If the circumstances were set up, I could have been a thief.
I actually was a thief for a very little while. I was in elementary school and the place was White Hen Pantry, and it was a candy bar and it was a dare. I had fallen into some bad company. Talks about it in Proverbs 1, isn't it interesting one of the very first things that Proverbs deals with is, "Don't fall in, my son, with thieves who say let's share a common purse," it's like in the 14th verse of Proverbs 1, it's like an issue right away, but I just thank God. I could have been a thief, I was delivered. My parents, knowing my financial resources, wondered where that candy bar came from, asked some questions, and I went back in and confessed in full to the shop owner, and I was delivered from that. But for us, saved by grace, we have to learn not to excuse ourselves from passages of scripture. And we also need to realize God is doing a worldwide saving work. And what's fascinating about the verses that we're looking at today is that there are some verses that you probably don't struggle with. There's one verse here that you'd say, "You know actually I'm not a thief honestly, but I know I'm a sinner," but then the next verse talks about how you use your words every day, do you ever use your words in a way that doesn't glorify God? Everyone will say based on the book of James everyone will say, "We need a transformation of our mouths."
The Gospel’s Transformative Power
And so this is the marvel of the Gospel, isn't it? The “Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of every sinner, every kind of sinner.” So isn't it wonderful that a band of thieves like the one that beat up that man on the Jericho road could actually find salvation in Christ, isn't it beautiful that in the 24 time zones of the Church of Jesus Christ, there actually are some people that have struggled with thieving, that made a living doing it, that were really tough individuals and the Gospel of Christ came and transformed the whole way they lived. Romans 1:16, Paul says, "I'm not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes." All sinners who repent and turn to Christ, in the abandonment of faith like that thief did on the cross, can find salvation through faith in Christ. We can find total forgiveness.
Deliverance Only Through Christ
Now, in Ephesians the implication here is if you have found Jesus a savior, if you have trusted in Him, as a savior, and you have had all of your sins forgiven by the blood of Jesus, you've come to Him, you who are weary and burdened and troubled in sin and you have trusted in Him and you have been forgiven, you are now told by the Gospel to live a different kind of life. And so he addresses that very, very directly, and it's marvelous to me, for us sitting in the comfort of this sanctuary, in the comfort of our socio-economic condition, it's a stretch for us to understand why we need to be told that we who have been stealing must steal no longer but must work. Some of you sitting here, it wouldn't surprise me, know exactly why you have to be told this. Praise God that there is a Gospel that liberates us from all the symptoms of the disease of sin and death, and that this one Gospel of Christ, crucified and resurrected, is the “panacea.” It is the healing for every disease of sin there is in the world. And there are going to be brothers and sisters up in Heaven, we're going to meet them who did make their living by thieving, and Jesus delivered them.
Not Stealing, but Labor, Love and Generosity (vs. 28)
So let's look at this first command and then the second, the first is not stealing, but labor in love and generosity. Look at verse 28, "He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need." So when we're talking about stealing, what is it? Well, before we can even have stealing, we have to have something before that, and that's the idea of private ownership. The idea that some created items, some goods, some possessions belong to people. They are theirs, possession. So without possession, then there is no possibility of stealing. So this is the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:15, "You shall not steal," but behind that we've got the idea of mine and yours. Just like Nick Granitsas was saying in that sermon, "What's mine is mine and yours is yours," there's mine and yours. Okay? So we get this in Acts Chapter 5, Peter said to Ananias, "Didn't the field belong to you before it was sold?” Your fields? “And after you sold it, wasn't the money yours as well? You could do whatever you wanted with that money. Why did you lie?" So the issue is not private ownership or what you did, it's that you lied about it. But private ownership's clearly established not just there, but throughout scripture. So stealing then is to take someone else's property, without their permission or without legal right, without intending to return it, especially secretly or by force. Now, this is actually in our society a bigger problem than we might think.
According to Forbes Magazine, I looked this up, shoplifting and worker theft cost retailers $32 billion a year. $32 billion a year. And the cost of protecting from that drives the price of everything up, we're all affected by stealing, whether we steal or not. Walmart alone loses $300 million a year to theft. So yesterday, Calvin and I were at Walmart and I did the you scan the check thing. But now they've got someone at the door, and they go through your bag. So at Walmart as at the airport, I get to a be treated temporarily like a criminal, but I understand it completely and I had no problem doing it because I know I was going to preach on stealing, and I knew about the $300 million and I was like, "Okay, I understand why Walmart is doing this now." It's kind of an irony because they've got the you scan for maximum convenience, and then they've got the lady rummaging through your bag for not so much convenience. And so, they're trying to balance that, and it's hard for the retailers, but their employees are stealing from them, their customers are stealing from them, it's a big issue.
I was at Lowe's two months ago, I was buying some vacuum cleaner belts, isn't it exciting that I can bring vacuum cleaner belts into a sermon? Various ones if you give me a challenge, "I want you to say this word sometime in the next year from the pulpit," I won't do it all right? But vacuum cleaner belts. So, I wanted to buy several bags, so I wouldn't have to go back, they're not that expensive. So I grabbed two bags off of the display and as I was walking forward I took a close look, and one of the bags had two vacuum cleaner belts in it as the bag promised, the other one was completely empty with a hole in it. And I don't see anyway that Lowe's could protect themselves from that kind of theft. I mean, it's such a cheap thing, it's got no little marker on it, it just got stuffed in someone's pocket. So this is an issue, we're surrounded by it all the time and then there's with the Internet with electronics and all, there's identity theft that's going on, a number of you I know are dealing with that at the other end as victims. And so, we understand this is a huge, a huge problem.
Is This Really Stealing?
Now, for ourselves, it's like, "Is it a problem for our church as a member... .".Well, you just have to look at your own conscience, you look at how you're living and asking. Obviously the issue of pretty soon taxes going to come up, it's stealing to not pay to the government every dollar that they deserve. And so, cutting corners, cutting edges. I think for me not to put in a full day's work or for any employee to not put in a full day's work, and Paul's going to deal with this in Ephesians 6, with the master-slave command, but you know for you to only work when your master's eye is on you, but then cutting corners, that's a different kind of stealing. So there's that kind of thing. If you take 20 napkins from Chick-fil-A, intending to have some of them in your glove compartment, and some of them you're going to use for the actual food you're eating a Chick-fil-A, I don't know, I've done it. I'm not quite at the point of conviction yet. Subway, they don't have it available, have you noticed? They put two napkins in there, in the bag, so they've cut that off at that point.
Alright, we could do that. You could say, "Alright, do I steal?" But if I could just urge you, look a little bit bigger. One of the most important verses in the Bible on the universality of sin is Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." The more you meditate on that, the more you realize every sinner is a glory thief. CJ Mahaney in his book on pride said, "Basically pride is when I take God's place and steal from Him what should be going to Him." So all of us are glory thieves to some degree, even if you haven't stolen in the standard way. We need Jesus as a Savior, we need to be able to look over to Him and say, "Remember me when you come into Your kingdom because I am no better than any other sinner that's ever lived."
Stop the Wrong, Start the Right
Now, what Paul does here is he doesn't just say, "stop stealing", he does say that. This is very, very simple and direct. “If you have been stealing, you must stop.” It is evil, it is wicked, it is not harmonious with the Christian life. But he doesn't just stop there, he goes into a power that will drive out stealing, and that is a whole disposition of your heart where you say, "I'm going to take my mind and I'm going to take my energy and my hands, and I'm going to use them in productive labor that's going to produce a profit. And out of that profit, some of it I'm going to give to the poor and needy." It's a whole different mindset. It is the remedy. Whereas before, all you cared about was your self, as you laid in wait for some victim. Now you're going to see who's been beat up by providential circumstances in life, and you're going to love them as the Good Samaritan did. It's a whole different perspective.
A good friend of mine, Vic Carpenter, who's with the FBI and we were talking about white collar crime, which he was trying to address in Florida, and he was marveling at just how inventive and creative and skilled these thieves are. And he said, "Why don't they just put all that inventiveness and creativity into productive work? They really would do very well." And in effect, that comment is exactly what Paul was saying here. Fundamentally, these folks have taken their amazing brains and their skillful hands and their creativity and their ingenuity and they're using it for corruption. Instead, what they should be doing, is that they should by the power of the Spirit, stop stealing and begin laboring, begin working with their own hands, delighting in work. Now, it seems that the thief hates honest work. They don't want to do it that way. They want a shortcut, they want some shortcut in life toward prosperity, and toward having that thing that they see.
All Labor Can Glorify God
But from this, the Christian should delight in work. Work is a delightful thing. The labor that God gives us is a beautiful thing, that we get to in some ways imitate God who fashioned and created worlds by the word of His power, and like Jesus said, "My Father is always at His work to this very day and I too am working," and we get to join the Father and work. And we talked earlier in Ephesian 4 about our spiritual gifts and we don't all have the same career or the same gifts or talents, but we have some. And we can take those talents and those gifts and we can develop them, and God just watches us and delights in it. Remember how He brought the animals to Adam to see what he would name them and whatever he named them, that's what was the animal's name? The idea, it's almost like God's observing, saying, "Here I'm giving you these gifts and talents, these hands, this mind, do something with it. Labor with it, do something creative with it, make something useful with your own hands. Work at your job.”
For a long time in the history of the Church, there was a hierarchy of holiness, the medieval Catholic Church had established very wrongfully I think, the idea that the mystics, those that remove themselves from everyday life, the priests, the nuns. Anyway, monks and nuns, they remove themselves from everyday life, and just meditated and fasted and all that, and that was the high level of holiness, whereas your standard peasant who worked out in the field or the shopkeeper had a very low level of holiness.
But, Martin Luther, with his priesthood of all believers doctrine, and then ultimately I think the Puritans more than anyone, established the beauty of a calling from God. Of having a career that you can labor with your own hands, and if you're called into the vocational ministry fine, but you may be called on to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or a shopkeeper, a farmer, or a craftsman, and you can glorify God with how you develop your skills in your career. And what the Puritans found is the more they sought to do all of their work for the glory of God, the better they got at it. And the more their products were in demand and the more money flowed in, and this was the fulfillment, even of this verse, so that they would have something to share with those in need. And how beautiful is that? So, the former thief is now living for the glory of God and living for his neighbor, he's using his skill and his talents to alleviate suffering.
Pray to See Your Sin and for Forgiveness
So on this one, ask God to show you examples where you have been taking from others what didn't belong to you, where you have been stealing, and repent. Understand, big picture, you're no different than any other thief that's been saved by grace, even though you haven't perhaps been tempted in that area, you could have been if the economic circumstances were different, so don't be arrogant. Understand also the same Gospel works to heal thieves and bring them over and look forward to spending eternity at the table, the feasting table, with some thieves that have been saved by the same grace that saved you. I am looking forward to meeting that thief on the cross, aren't you? I'm looking forward to talking to him and saying, "You know, you have been an inspiration to so many who had no hope, at the end of their life." And is it possible for me, even at the very end of a life of wickedness to find forgiveness? Yes, all you need to do is look to Christ crucified. I'm calling on you if you're unregenerate I'm saying right now look to Christ crucified, see yourself like that the thief on that the cross and say, "I have no other savior", and Jesus will speak a word to you saying, "You will be with me in paradise."
Not Corrupt Speech, but Love and Edification (vs. 29)
Now, the second verse, much more applicable I think to all of us. Look at verse 29, I would say this is one of the verses in Ephesians I think about the most. It's very, very helpful to me, very practical. "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths. But only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs so that it may benefit those who listen." So, I've called this verse before a “mouth filter.” Now our home, we're on a well, we're on a well, some of you folks are on city water, we're on a well. And early in our ownership, within a month or so, it became obvious we needed a whole house water filter. One of the most courageous things I've ever done in my life as a homeowner, is cut the copper pipe that fed the water to our entire house. I'll never forget that. I had one of those copper pipe cutter things, and I was like, "Here it goes," and then bang it was gone. I had shut off the water and it's like, "Okay I'm in it now. I've got to get this water filter in this line today or we have no water tonight," which is a big deal. And so I put that filter in, I'll tell you after about less than two or three weeks, the filter needed to be changed. I was like horrified, like for a month we drank unfiltered water, and I was so delighted that we had that filter in there.
The Mouth Filter
Now what is a filter? A filter is something that's designed to take out, or remove out of the water stream in that case, particulates and pollutants and other things that would be harmful, or would not be beneficial for you to drink. So basically then picture the stream of your words coming out of your mouth. You need a filter. You need to filter some of the things that you say and not say them anymore. And this verse is a great “mouth filter” or “word filter.” Look at it again, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths." That's 100%. Like, if there's anything unwholesome, let it never come out of your mouth; and then on the other side of the equation, but “only what is helpful for building others up that it may edify, only those things that will edify, that it might give grace to those who listen.” So Paul in effect wants the Ephesians to ask it every moment before they speak is what I'm about to say going to be helpful for building others up according to their needs. Will it benefit or give grace to those who listen, and if the answer is, "No," don't say it. Don't say it.
“Unwholesome Talk”: An Amazing Gift Gone Bad
So what does this mean, unwholesome talk? Well unwholesome talk, the word in the original means rotten, putrefying, or corrupted talk. It's a very strong word. The word translated unwholesome. So you could picture just leaving some chicken, uncooked chicken on your counter as you're away for a weekend in August. You know what I'm talking about? And then you come back Sunday night, and you know immediately you did something, you forgot something because the smell is horrible. So that's how some of our talk looks to God. It stinks. It's moral filth, it's evil, and we ought not to say it. So any word that hurts someone else, so verbal attacks or insults or slander or gossip, fighting words, arguments, dissensions, words like that, lies, or complaining. I mean complaining doesn't give grace to those who listen. So any time you're going to want to just put in... And complaining is anti-praise is what it is, it's exactly the opposite of praise. Praise is you're just thanking God for His goodness and you're just speaking words of joy, and all that, complaining is the exact opposite, very dissatisfied with the providence of God. So, you're complaining. And certainly harsh things like false doctrine, that doesn't benefit, that doesn't give grace. Or blasphemy, coarse words, foolish talk, joking, things that we'll get to that in Ephesians 5, but all of these corrupted ways, idle chatter, things that just don't benefit people. Just get rid of it, all of it. It's a whole mouth filter here.
Out of the Fullness of the Heart the Mouth Speaks
The problem with the mouth, with the words, is that there's such a strong connection between what you say and your heart, the state of your heart. Jesus said this, "Out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks.” The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. “Out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks," so whatever your heart's full of, you're going to speak. It's really hard not to. And on Judgment Day, we're told that we'll have to give an account for every careless word we've spoken, think about that.
I was in a witnessing situation once, and I used that verse and he said, "Whoa whoa whoa, I don't... " The guy said to me, "I don't remember most of what I've said." I said, "That's alright, God's got it written down. He's got it all down." That was horrifying to that individual. They're like, everything I said. All of it. Not just our words, but our actions, inclinations of the heart, everything. That is a great verse for witnessing. "I tell you on the Day of Judgment, you will have to give an account for every careless word you have spoken, for by your words you will be acquitted and by your words you will be condemned." So what that means is really actually Jesus can just boil it down to this, a full transcript of all of your words of your life, He will be able to accurately gauge the state of your soul. By the fruit of your words He will know you.
So the key to transforming your speech is a transformation of the heart, transformation of the heart. You say, "Lord, I want my heart to be filled with light and not darkness. I want to be filled with love for You and love for my neighbor." And so I would commend Philippians 4:8, as the partner verse for this whole “mouth filter.” It says there, "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, or lovely or admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about those things." And I just in my mind, I insert the word “only.” “Think only about those things.” And what's going to happen, is you're going to start speaking what's true and noble and right and pure and lovely and admirable. So if you're saying corrupting things, if you're arguing, and lying, and slandering, and gossiping, and complaining, and doing things with your mouth you ought not to do, the problem is your heart. The mouth is just a slave, it's going to do what your heart tells it to do. So go into your heart with the grace of God and say, "Oh Lord, can it really be that my heart is this bad?” It is. And, “Oh God, would You by the Word of God and by the Spirit of God transform my heart and fill it with light and joy and love for neighbor, so that I use my mouth as a blessing."
James 3: The Restless Evil of the Tongue
Now, it's not going to be easy. James 3 talks about this. James 3 talks about how hard it is to control the mouth. He says in James 3:2, "We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault, in what he says, he's a perfect man, able to keep this whole body in check." In other words, if you can get the tongue controlled you're a perfect man or woman. "The tongue is a restless evil, full of deadly poison," James says. It's really hard to control. I like Psalm 141:3. It says, "Set a guard over the door of my mouth, keep watch over the door of my lips."
So, every once in a while, I ride on my bike past Butner prison. It's a maximum security prison I think, it's got guard towers and lights and it's got razor wire and it's got all of these things there, and as I'm riding I just look at all of the lengths that they've gone to keep those prisoners in. Because the idea is that it's very likely, if these folks get out into the community, they will do severe damage in the community. And so the guard's job, the warden's job, is to keep them in, at least in part, that's part of the job, to keep them in so that they can't get out and do damage in society. So when I go then to Psalm 141:3 where it says, "Set a guard over my mouth O Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips." The idea is that some of my words will be like those inmates. They will do damage out in society. So please, don't let them escape, please don't let my bad words get out of my mouth.
Be Slow to Speak
James gives us more help in James 1:19 when he says, "My dear brothers, take note of this, everyone should be quick to listen," what's the next one? "Slow to speak." So slow down. Slow to become angry, slow down. I don't know if it's the FCC or the networks where they put in some time ago a seven-second delay, you know so that if something gets said that ought not be said they can beep it out, right? So it's almost like you need a seven-second delay. Seven seconds is a long time. Now that would get a little weird in, like at a party. That's been about four seconds. But just the idea is slow down, think about what you're about to say and bring it back to Ephesians 4:29, "Is what I'm about to say unwholesome talk? Or on the other hand, is it helpful for building others up?" The focus should be, "I want to use my words to further the Kingdom of Christ. I want to use my words to edify, that's one of the words here. I'm going to build my neighbor up, so I get that image from Ephesians 2 of that beautiful spiritual temple rising with the living stones. I want to use my words to speak to a lost person, the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that they find forgiveness and become a living stone in that wall. I want to edify and build that person up, moving them from darkness to light." Okay, "If they're a Christian, I want to build them up in maturity in Christ. I want to help them in some way, I want to edify them." And the NIV says, "that it may benefit those who listen," but all the other translations I think are a little sharper. It says, "That it may give grace to those who listen." So I want my words to be a river of God's grace to you. And not just when I'm preaching, I want that to be my regular habit.
Give Grace With Your Words
So how do I do that? How do I make my words a river of grace? Well, I would just commend the quiet time to you. Every day get up, begin your day and store up grace in your heart by the ministry of the word of God. Feed your soul with messages of grace that you can give to people through the day. Say, "This morning I met with the Lord, I had the most encouraging time, let me share something of it with you." And so you're giving grace. I love Isaiah 50:4, I think it's talking about Jesus, but I also take it for myself too. Isaiah 50:4, "The sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary," isn't that beautiful? I want to know a word today that could sustain someone that's weary, weary in this world, weary of physical afflictions, and disease, weary of struggling with sin. I want to speak a word that will give grace to that person that will sustain him. Isaiah 50:4, "He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught." So just say, "Lord fill me like a sponge with messages of grace, fill my heart with light, drive out the darkness so that I'm not complaining about my job or complaining about our finances or about my medical situation, I'm not complaining. That doesn't give grace to the people who listen to me. I want to be filled with joy, I want to set my heart on the New Jerusalem, I want to be talking about that."
Speak to Your Neighbor’s Needs
And it says, "According to their needs that it may give grace." So study the needs of your neighbor, find out what's going on in people's lives. Maybe they're going through trials, financially, physically, with illness, maybe the marriage is in trouble, maybe their child is rebellious or seriously ill or something. Find out, find out where they're at in the discipleship, maybe they're doctrinally immature, you can give grace to them in a discipleship relationship or at least just say some words that'll help. Perhaps there's a sin issue and God wants to use you to "restore them gently,” Galatians 6:1, and bring them back into a healthy relationship with God. There's all kinds of messages of grace that God wants to use. And pick up on the social cues, okay? I like this in Proverbs 25:11 it says, "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver," isn't that beautiful? Apples of gold in a setting of silver, but it says it's a word aptly spoken, it's the right time.
So let's say you had the most awesome quiet time, and you have this intricate three-part mini message you want to give and you run into a church member at Kroger, and they are happy to see you and it's like, "Yeah, it's great. Yeah, we got a lot to do," where you know it's like, "Oh stop, I got something I want to share with you." That's not the time. If they're physically giving off cues that they're needing to roll, this is not the time. So there's a sense of social sensitivity, alright? That's where it's an apple of gold in a setting of silver, it's a word aptly spoken, the time is right. Time is right. But oh, brothers and sisters, let us use our mouths to build up the Body of Christ.Let's use our words to speak grace to the people around us. Let's get rid of arguing and complaining and gossip and lying and slander and corrupting speech, and instead speak words of edification to one another, close with me in prayer.
Father, thank you for the Gospel. Thank you for Christ, thank you that you spoke that word of forgiveness to the thief saying, "Today, you'll be with Me in paradise." Thank you that you save thieves, repentant thieves, you save them. And thank you that you save other kinds of sinners too, and thank you, oh Lord, that you've given us such a rich treasure trove of messages of grace that we can speak to one another. Oh God, fill our hearts with light that we may speak words of light, that give grace to those who listen. In Jesus' name, Amen.