Ryan Burgett, September 13, 2012
“If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion useless.” James 1.26
Did you know we can deceive our own heart by our words? The truth is that the words we say are extremely important, more than most realize. In the wisdom of Proverbs, we read: “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, But the tongue of the wise promotes health” (Proverbs 12.18). “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, But perverseness in it breaks the spirit” (Proverbs 15.4). “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18.21). “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue Keeps his soul from troubles” (Proverbs 21.23).
We can with our own tongue speak truth to what is right, or what is wrong. When we speak truth to what is right, we promote healthy lives. But when we speak truth to what is wrong, we can break our spirit and the spirits of those around us. The world we live in is full of lies, and it is our responsibility as Christians to speak truth to what is right.
To those outside of relationship with Jesus, we need to speak truth to the fact that they are special, unique creations by God, who are so loved by Him that He gave his own life for them on the cross. We need to stop speaking truth to what is wrong. What is accomplished by going on and on about how sinful people are? From our pulpits we continually condemn people and groups of people for sin, but we forget that Jesus said, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” John 20.23. Could it be that those people we condemn are actually stuck in their sin because we refuse to speak truth to their forgiveness in Jesus’ name? I am convinced that if we would stop condemning our cities and people, the power of sin could be broken from them.
But who I want most to focus on in this post are those of us who follow Jesus. The Bible speaks many wonderful things about us, yet we have a tendency to speak the opposite about ourselves. Holy Spirit tells us in Ephesians 2.10 that “we are His workmanship.” This means that our lives are a reflection of his work, not our own. Once we give our lives to Jesus, we are born again by the Spirit. In the past we were our own workmanship, but now we are his! So what does the Bible say that this “new creation” looks like?
The number one truth spoken of us throughout the New Testament is the fact that we are now “saints.” This is in contrast to what we were before, “sinners.” So if the Bible says we are saints, what right do we have to call ourselves sinners? I hear it from fellow Christians over and over and over again, “Well, we are all sinners” and “I know I am a sinner.” But that is no longer our reality! Romans 6 explains that we died to sin and that because our old body of sin was done away with, we are no longer slaves of sin! But the apostle Paul takes it even further and tells us that we are now slaves to righteousness! THAT IS THE TRUTH ABOUT US. If we live outside of this, it is not because we are sinners, but because we are believing lies within our minds that we need something outside of Him. But even if we do sin, it does not make us sinners, because the Bible tells us that we are saints. And I have mentioned before in blogs the important distinction made in 1 John where he says “if” we sin, not “when” we sin. Our default is no longer sin! So let’s stop talking as if it still is. And also, let’s stop taking Paul’s words in Romans 7 out of context and presenting them as if they are the reality for those of us who are saved. If Paul’s words there are about us, then they are in direct contradiction to what the rest of the NT says about us. Paul is clearly speaking of his experience BEFORE salvation, setting up a contrast between our old life before Christ and our new life after salvation.
Our words betray what we have faith in. If we speak as saints, we show that we have faith to live sinless lives. But if we speak of ourselves as sinners, we show that we have put faith into living lives of sin. Do you get what I am saying? If you say, “I know I am a sinner, and I know I am going to stumble” then you are putting faith in your stumbling or sinning. You are in fact saying, “I have faith that I am going to sin.” Is that what we want to put our faith in? Instead, we need to speak truth to what we know from the Bible to be truth! The confession from the lips of Christians must always be, “We are saints and have been freed from sin!” When we speak that way, we are putting our faith in Jesus’ work in us.
1 Peter 3.10 tells us, “He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit.” We need to stop speaking deceit and instead dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to only speak truth about ourselves and those around us. That is the kind of speech that leads to “life” and “health” and “good days.” That is the kind of speech that glorifies Jesus, the “author and finisher of our faith.”