Healthy Speech

It is pretty easy to come to church and say, Jesus is Lord.  In fact, if we walked out of church and stopped many people on the street, it wouldn’t take much effort to get them to say, yes,  Jesus is Lord.  But what does Lord mean?  How do we know that you really believe Jesus is Lord?  What does Lord mean?  Lord means boss, Lord means owner, Lord means master? How can I evaluate whether you really believe Jesus is Lord, Jesus is owner, Jesus is master, one of the easiest ways to evaluate whether you believe that is to look at the way you speak, do you speak to other people as if Jesus really were Lord, as if your words belong to Jesus, as if Jesus were in fact the owner of your words.  Our words belong to Him.  Whether we really believe Jesus is Lord is revealed by whether we speak like He is Lord throughout the week.

I wonder if you have ever thought about it like that?  The connection between what you say and what you actually believe?

I think that in fact is the connection Paul is making in Ephesians 4:29 and 30 as well.  In chapters one through three, Paul has shown us that we have been saved by God, if you are a Christian it is God’s work, you have been saved by God and Paul says you have been saved for God.  You have been saved by the grace of God and you have been saved for the glory of God.  How do we know whether you believe you have been saved by the grace of God and for the glory of God?  How do we know whether you believe you are here for yourself or you are here for God?  We look, one place, we look is at the way you talk.  The fact that you have been saved by the grace of God and that you have been saved for the glory of God has to impact the way you communicate.

The question is how?  How is this supposed to impact the way we communicate?  If I am not saved by my own efforts and if I am put here on the planet to make God look great, in the day to day realities of life beside the fact that I sing at church, I am talking about when I am in my flat and I am speaking to the person in the other room, how does the fact that I have been saved by the grace of God and for the glory of God, impact the way I speak?  How can I evaluate whether I am talking like I believe in the grace of God and that I have been saved for the glory of God?

What I want to do over the next few posts is look at Ephesians 4:29 and 30 because Paul answers that question here.  And I am going to give you three questions that you can use to evaluate whether or not you believe you have been saved by God and for God.  I am going to give you three questions to evaluate whether the way you talk reflects the gospel you say you believe at church.

First of all, is the way I am speaking harmful?

Paul says it like this, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths.”  He uses the word corrupting. You could define the word corrupting unwholesome or harmful.  There are several words that are like this word corrupting that are used throughout the Scripture.  Instead of corrupting you could say rotten, you could say decaying, you could say withered, you could say diseased.  Are your words rotten, are your words, decaying, are your words, withered, are your words, diseased.  Paul wants you to look at your words and see if they are harmful to the people around you. 

You could imagine eating something rotten.  Have you ever eaten an apple or something like that that has gone bad?  What kind of nasty reaction you get when you bite into that.  Can you imagine if a father fed his children rotten food on a regular basis? If he said honey kids I want you to come I have made a great meal and he puts rotten meat and rotten fruit on the table and he says ok family it is time for us to have a feast and yet Paul is saying this is the way words impact our family and there are fathers who would never feed their children rotten food and yet this is exactly what their words are doing that same thing in their family’s life.

Or you can imagine someone who is infectious and this is a disease that makes someone else sick as well and he comes to your home and he hugs you and coughs on you and walks over to someone else and coughs on them, this is a person who is infected with a terrible disease and makes everyone else sick as well, we would never want to do that to others with our physical bodies, and yet Paul says this is something we can do to others with our words.

Or you can imagine something that is decaying,  you know, maybe we can think of a dead body that is decaying, can you imagine keeping a dead dog, and you put the dead dog in your children’s room for a week, for a month, for two months, you just leave this decaying rotten animal with the maggots running through it in your children’s room, we would never do something like that with a dog and with our children, and yet this is something Paul is saying we can do with our words. 

The point Paul is making, the point he wants us to understand is that our words have an influence, the  way in which we speak can impact the people around us in devastating ways.  The world unbelievers are not very concerned about what they say.  You speak to an unbeliever about the way in which they speak and they might say I talk the way I talk, because I am my own man, I don’t care how the people around me take what I am saying, they will just have to get over it, because I have to be me, but Paul is saying, that is not the way someone who has been saved by the grace of God for the glory of God should think about the way he speaks, the person who has been transformed by the grace of Christ should have a serious concern about the effect his words have on the people around him and as a result he should be very careful not to let any harmful, decaying rotten words to come out of his mouth.

If you ever want any proof of the power our words can have on the people around us, you might just work your way through Proverbs, I recently went through the book of Proverbs and just noted some of the ways it says our words can impact others.

Your words can literally ruin someone else’s life.

Your words can destroy someone who is close to you.

He talks about words being able to overthrow an entire city.

He talks about the way we communicate entrapping a person.

He speaks about words being sword thrusts.

He speaks of our words having the ability to make God angry.

He talks about speech stirring up anger.

He talks about words breaking another person’s spirit.

He talks about words inviting a beating.

He talks about words making it difficult for someone else to understand the truth.

The way in which you speak can change others for the worse.

He talks about our words being like a pit.

He talks about words being able to make life for others unbearably uncomfortable. 

He says words can produce tension, conflict, your words they can corrupt. 

And as a result, if we are people who are wise, we are people who should evaluate the way in which we speak to others.  Just practically speaking, you would have to be a fool not to pay attention to the way you speak.   

But even more important as believers, as people who have been shown grace, it would be wicked for us not to evaluate our words.  Think of all the mercy that God has shown us, the way in which God has pursued us, the way in which God in his great grace has transformed us, he comes to us and says our speech is important, how can we not take time as individuals to evaluate the way we communicate with others.

Because of the power of words, because of the importance of the way we speak, it is vital we as a church think about putting off corrupting speech. And the place to start obviously is to identify corrupting speech.  It is hard for us to put off unwholesome speech if we don’t know what unwholesome speech looks like.  How can you stop doing something that you don’t know.  If you are going to change as a believer and put off that unwholesome way of speaking is you have to identify it in your life.

One way to do that is very specific, you have to get specific about unwholesome words, and Paul does that.  You remember how he says about putting off lie so one kind of corrupting word would be lying speech. Or you could look at how later Paul says bitter, anger, wrathful, clamorous speech, this is all specific examples of unwholesome words.  Later in Ephesians 5, he talks about impure, foolish, crude speech.  So you might simply ask yourself do I have a habit of lying, of speaking words that are angry, that are bitter, do I have a habit of slander, of impure words, all of those words must be put off.  

But for me, it is easier, not to be so specific, but easier if I am going to put off unwholesome words, to be a little more broad and what I mean by that is to think about what is at the root of unwholesome words, what heart attitudes produce words that corrupt, it helps me to simplify, what is at the core of corrupting speech?

In our next post, we will look at three wrong attitudes that are at the core of corrupting speech and you can evaluate your talk by looking at whether or not it comes from one of these three places, and if it comes from one of these three places, you can be sure it is going to be the kind of speech that corrupts others. 

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