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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Our Speech: Communicating In Holiness

2 CORINTHIANS 6:14-7:1


There use to be a commercial on the radio that stated “People judge you by the words you speak.” If I remember correctly is was a commercial advancing the importance of expanding one's vocabulary.
Titus 2:7,8 - In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.

The word "sound" is translated from a Greek word meaning healthy, well, true. In fact I think in the context of the verse itself Paul explains what he means by using "sound speech". In the very next phrase he says, "that cannot be condemned". That is sound speech is speech that is unblameable, not susceptible to censure.

Here is an area where we are very apt to be influenced by the culture around us. Words, sayings, clichés, and terms become entrenched in the culture and mainstream and the tendency is to pick up these things without much thought as to where they came from or with what or whom we are aligning ourselves by the use of certain expressions.

Every time we open our mouths we are broadcasting the content of our hearts.

Matthew 12:34 - O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.

Our speech is an area where there should be a marked difference between the world and us. We should seek to establish clearly defined boundaries of separation. We should separate our communication from that of the world. Our speech should identify us as different, as Christian.

Phrases that were given birth in Hollywood and worldly music find their way into the sanctuary of God’s house. We choose words that are just a half step away from cursing. Slang becomes accepted. Fudging the truth is seen as a necessary evil and a convenient escape from consequences. Bitter words are spoken under the guise of spiritual maturity and concern.

All of these issues that can characterize our speech reveal a lack of perfecting holiness in the fear of God as it relates to our speech.

Our commitment must be to communicating in holiness. If we cannot say it and be holy we ought not to say it!

I want us to consider three primary areas where we need to be judging our speech and bringing it into conformity to the Word of God and the standards of holiness and separation from the world.

Cursing is the language of the world. Using expletives worldlings express grief, happiness, sadness, and anger. A cursing believer reveals the limited nature of sanctification in their lives and it cannot be characterized as sound speech that cannot be condemned.

Psalms 59:12 – For the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips let them even be taken in their pride: and for cursing and lying which they speak.
Cursing is identified as a sin of the mouth! Cursing is attributed to pride!

Rom. 3:14 – Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: . . . .
This is characteristic of the unbeliever but should not be characteristic of those who have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts thereof.
Jam. 3:10 – Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.
Clearly there are some forms of communication that are inconsistent with holiness and righteousness.

Taking God’s name in vain.

There is more involved here that just using God’s name in connection with an expletive. It is also important to keep in mind that God has many names.

Exodus 20:7 -Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
God’s name is not to be used in an empty fashion. His name is to always be spoken in an attitude of reverence and godly fear. The Scripture is clear that the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain. It is amazing that behaviour that is accompanied with such a sober warning is so readily and without out conscience engaged in by so many.

Leviticus 19:12 - And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.
When one swears by God’s name and then proceeds to tell a falsehood they have taken God’s name in vain. Swearing should be unnecessary for the Christian. Let your nay be nay and your yea be yea. In the rare instance when we may be called upon to help establish true testimony in a court of law and possibly a few other isolated occasions to swear by his name and then lie is to take his name in vain. His name is to not be attached to falsehood. In fact in a legal proceeding if one lies under oath they have committed perjury, which is a crime liable to prosecution.

Proverbs 30:7-9 – Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.
Profane people who lay claim to the name of God take it in vain. Our behaviour can cause us to be guilty of taking God’s name in vain. To claim to know God and then to engage in behaviour that is contrary to the nature of God is to take his name in vain.

Psalms 29:2 - Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
Psalms 34:3 - O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.
Psalms 111:9 -He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant forever: holy and reverend is his name.
God’s name should always be used with the utmost attention to His glory and majesty. His name is due glory, it is to be exalted, it is holy and reverend. To use any of his names in a way that is inconsistent with its nature is to take his name in vain.
Again remember that God has many names: God, Jesus, Christ, Jesus Christ, Lord, and there are others. Extreme caution is needed here. It is easy in an unguarded moment to say something that is taking God's name in vain. It is inconceivable that one could tell a joke that involved God and not violate this command. Jokes by their very nature make light of things. While there may be numerous objects and topics that are a fit subject for such light-hearted play it is doubtful whether the name of God should be subject to such jesting.

We must be careful about making light-hearted conversation using God’s name. God's name should always be used in a context of sobriety and reverence.

A figure in which a harsh and indelicate word or expression is softened. Dictionary of Euphemisms and Other Double Talk, “Euphemisms are known as linguistic fig leaves and double talk.” The idea of euphemism being linguistic fig leaves should strike a chord with everyone familiar with their Bibles. Adam and Even used fig leaves to make aprons to cover up their nakedness. Even so it was inadequate. We have to ask ourselves what are we seeking to cover up with the use of euphemisms and is it providing adequate cover? Adam and Eve thought so till God came. We may think so until we go to God. It is an area we should probably consider.

Euphemisms are words that are not curse words but sound very close to curse words and in fact are cleaned up curse words. Often times it is just a syllable that is changed up.

Some examples are necessary in order to be aware of what is before us. I looked up each of these words in my dictionary of euphemisms:

Golly – A euphemistic deformation of “God”.
Good grief – Good God, (good gosh, good gracious, good gracious to Betsy, good gravy, goodness sakes alive).
Gosh – Along with golly, probably the most common of the many euphemisms still used for God.
Dang – Damn
Darn – Damn
Heck – Hell
Shoot – A euphemism for the crude term for excrement. (shucks)
There are others but we will let this suffice. Euphemisms give one the opportunity to engage the spirit of cursing without the use of the actual words.

Ephesians 5:3,4 - But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.

Foolish talking and jesting is to not once named among you as becometh saints. It is important to understand what is involved here:

Foolish talking – Silly talk, buffoonery
Jesting – Well turned, witticism, indecency, obscenity
I do not believe that this is a prohibition on all humor. I do believe it is a warning that if we are not careful humour can easily slip into foolish talking and jesting. We must be careful about moving closer and closer to the edge of indecency and complete silliness.

Paul write that neither of these things that can characterize our speech is convenient which means proper, or fit. Pure speech is characterized by a sense of propriety. It is to not once be names among saints.

Colossians 3:8 - But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
Filthy communication is to be put out of our mouth. Communication that more closely identifies us with this world than the eternal world.

Holy speech is true speech. Deceit and hypocrisy is unbecoming of a believer. There are many temptations to lie, fudge a bit with the truth, engage in double talk, leave out information that will result in a false impression, and twist thing just a bit for some perceived profit. People are tempted to be deceitful to get out of a bind, escape consequences, make them selves look good, make others look bad, and a host of other reasons. Yet, the Bible is explicitly plain when it comes to telling the truth and being truthful.
Ephesians 4:25 – Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.
How do we put away lying? By speaking truth with our neighbor. We cannot lie if we are committed to truth telling. This is a concrete example of what he was speaking of earlier in this passage when he wrote about putting of the old man and putting on the new. Putting off the old man is putting away lying. Putting on the new man is speaking truth with our neighbors. May be we be committed to truth telling even at great personal costs and even if it requires us to suffer some undesirable consequences.

Ephesians 4:15 – But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: . . . .
The truth must always be spoken. Sometimes the truth is painful. When we suspect this is the case we are to not be calloused concerning the reality but to be charitable in the expression of the truth. I will write more about this in a bit.

Proverbs 12:22 – Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight.
It could not be plainer! Lips that lie are an abomination to the Lord. That places lying in some fairly unsavoury company. On the other hand, those that deal truly are his delight. Do we want to please the Lord? Then we must be people of truth.

Proverbs 12:17 – He that speaketh truth sheweth forth righteousness: but a false witness deceit.
If we want to show forth righteousness then we must speak the truth. If we are ever caught lying and being decietful then the cause of righteousness suffers. Liars end up suffering major credibility problems.

Romans 3:13 – Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: . . . .
People use deceit to accomplish all kinds of things. We live in a culture of lying. When I speak of lying I am not speaking of saying you are going to do something and then circumstances develop that render it difficult or impossible for you to fulfill the commitment. I am talking about saying you are going to do something when you have not intentions of doing it. I am talking about purposefully telling an untruth.
I never cease to be amazed how people hate for others to lie to them. Yet, those same people have no qualms about lying to others. I have come to realize that when people say they hate lying what they are really saying is that don't want to be lied to but that they don't mind lying to others. For most people to say they hate liars would mean they hate themselves.
When I worked at Dominos if an inspector was coming I usually got sent home. Why? Because inspectors asked questions about procedure and how things were done. The purpose was to ensure that things were being done according to procedure. They knew if I was asked I would tell the truth. I would not seek out and inspector but if they sought me out and asked I would not lie for them. So it was best just to send me home, and they often did. Not every time but on several occasions. The computer statistics would be manipulated to improve the store numbers which is lying. Bus drivers check off their pre-trip form without doing the complete pre-trip, this is lying, that could have serious consequences.

Proverbs 20:17 – Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel.
Such is the case. Liars are never delivered from their dilemmas they simply make them more complicated. If you doubt it just ask former Presidents Nixon and Clinton. Ask the upper management of former Enron. Ask the baseball players who used steroids and lied about it. It would do us well to remember that gravel is awful hard on the teeth.
Liars have to have good memories. Liars have to remember what story they told to who.
Isaiah 53:9 – And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
When we tell the truth we reflect the image of Jesus rather than the spirit of this world. The Bible says, "neither was any deceit found in his mouth". May this be said of us as his followers.

Colossians 4:6 - Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
Speech is to be always with grace. That little word "alway" certainly leaves little wiggle room. The point that is at issue in this verse is how we are to answer every man. Part of the answer is with grace. We do not answer men the way they deserve. They may deserve rancour and malice but if we are charitable in our speech we will answer with grace.
Our speech will be seasoned with salt. There are no doubt several very good applications to this imagery employed by Paul. I think the one most in keeping with the context is that of salt serving as a preservative. Our speech should be of such a nature that we preserve the relationship. The scripture does say as much as lieth within you live peaceably with all men. Some men desire no peace. Even so let us not be accused of employing language that is destructive of the relationship. We are instructed to have our speech seasoned with salt. This will be best effected by have our speech characterized by grace.

Ephesians 4:29-32 – Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
Corrupt communication is communication that does not edify. It is communication that does not minster grace to the hearers. In the previous passage we were told to let our speech be always with grace now we are instructed to let our speech minister grace to the hearers. Our speech should be charitable. Even when we have to say hard things about or to people, and sometimes we do, it can still be said with a charitable spirit. The point is that truth is being sought and not personal agendas. We are not attempting to tear down people but build up the truth. There are times when casualties result from battling for truth. While this is at time necessary it should never be something that we enjoy and relish. I am reminded of the words of Robert E. Lee who said something to the effect of, It is good that war is so terrible lest we grow fond of it. We may have to go to war at times for truth but we should never grow fond of it. And no matter what, we should keep in mind our responsibility to speak that which is good to the use of edifying and those things that minster grace to the hearer.
When we fail to do so we grieve the Spirit of God.

1 Peter 2:1-3 – Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
Look at the things we are to lay aside. And notice that little word "all"! Again we are left with little room for negotiating. All means all! All what? Malice, guile, hypocrisies, envies, and all evil speakings. Instead of embracing these attitudes that detract from our ability to engage in charitable speech let us desire the sincere milk of the word. Desire it like a newborn babe. The attitudes and behaviour mentioned in verse one is detrimental to achieving the desirablity expressed in verse two. These two verse are set against each other as polar opposites. The attitudes of verse one stunt our growth and hinder our ability to speak charitably. The practicing of verse two encourages our growth and increases our ability to speak charitably.

Ephesians 4:15 – But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: . . . .
I return to this verse. I do so because I want to make the point that when we are told to speak the truth in love we are not being given some idealistic concept that is hard to define and quantify. If we want to know what speaking the truth in love looks like, if we want to know what charitable speech looks like we only need to go to 1 Corinthians 13. 1 Corinthians 13 identifies the nature of charity. Consequently we find in this passage the attributes of charitable speech.
Without spending a lot of time in the passage at this point I leave you with the following to consider:
Speech that is characterized by longsuffering.
Speech that is kind.
Speech that is without envy.
Speech that is characterized by humility.
Speech that is not unseemly.
Speech that is not seeking its own.
Speech that is not the result of being easily provoked.
Speech that is refrained from thinking evil.
Speech that does not rejoice in iniquity.
Speech that seeks the advancement of truth.
Speech that reveals a willingness to bear all things.
Speech that reveals a willingness to believe all things.
Speech that reveals a willingness to hope all things
Speech that reveals a willingness to endure all things.
Speech that reveals a commitment to never failing in its personal responsibilities.
Matthew 12:37 - For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Titus 2:8 - Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.
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