It’s January. I love the New Year. Does anyone dislike the New Year? I mean who doesn’t love the idea of fresh, clean slates. New mercies. New season. I can’t explain why a simple change of date and month causes me to feel so invigorated but it does.
I don’t have a resolution…. I don’t even have a word this year (or last year apparently!) I do have scripture though. God plopped me down in Ephesians and for a little over a week has basically said, “Stay put.” It started with Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, that it may benefit those who listen.” I began refreshing my mind with this passage. Asking questions like “What IS unwholesome talk?” “What would or would not benefit those who listen?” And getting tough, convicting responses from the Lord.
One of the most memorable sermons I have ever listened to is one John Piper preached entitled, Make Your Mouth a Means of Grace. That pretty much sums it up. In any and every situation I want to ask myself “Is my mouth a means of grace?” “Am I imparting grace to the people around me?” It makes perfect sense for Paul to continue in that chapter with these words, verse 31 and 32 “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Jesus taught that “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart,….” Matthew 15:18 ESV Whatever we are holding onto in our heart is going to determine whether our mouth can be an instrument of grace. So that got me thinking…. when my mouth is NOT being a means of grace, what is the sin I’m holding onto? Is it resentment, a sense of entitlement, impatience, or unforgiveness? When my words are tender, humble, and loving, it’s because my desire is to love and honor Jesus. And when my words are uplifting, beneficial, and gracious, you can trace it directly back to Who is on the throne of my heart. But when my words are ugly, negative, harsh, or sarcastic it’s not a reflection of my love for Jesus, it’s just me unyielded to the Holy Spirit. This has been a powerful time, meditating on Gods Word and doing my own heart check. God has made me keenly aware of how desensitized I can become to my own sin, justifying these “little” grievances that are detestable to him. Bitterness, greed, resentment, envy, slander, etc. can infiltrate our hearts slowly and subtly and really begin to wreak havoc on our spiritual life and relationships. As I began reading these verses, fully aware that I’m not immune against these sins, I asked God to bring it all to light. Sometimes we have to pray that so we can confess and repent and truly “rid” ourselves of it all.
Bring it to light, Lord.
This morning I honed in on the beginning of Ephesians 4, verses 2 and 3, “Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
Does that not just knock you out of your chair? Thats a pretty heavy commission for us! I mean, every day I have to fight the inclination to be the antithesis of that passage. I love the people in my life but the fact is relationships are hard. If we’re honest, people we love can be annoying and hard to love sometimes. I know I can be!! My sinful knee jerk reaction to frustrating situations is anger. I get hot, physically, and my chest gets tight with angry feelings. And then if it doesn’t get dealt with properly I might just get bitter or resentful. You can usually tell this by whatever comes out of my mouth and it’s not grace. But I want to speak grace and life. In joyous times, in the mundane times, and in the uncomfortable, hard confrontations I want my heart to be right with God and my words to “build others up, so it may benefit those who listen”.
God didn’t put all this in his Word to make us despairing, feeling as though we can not possibly do this. He put it there because through Christ we are more than conquerors. I have experienced how powerful it is to pray through these passages. I have felt a complete shift in my attitude, outlook, and speech when I apply these truths to whatever is going on in my day. Be humble. Be patient. Bear with one another. According to their needs. Keep the unity. Don’t grieve the Spirit of God. Filtering my thoughts through those truths is the key. It also takes a lot of diligence! But God is faithful when we actively put our trust and heart in his hands. And it is life giving when we live according to his Word!
I’ll close with this because our heart, mind, and mouth are all connected. What we put in our mind nourishes our heart and soul. This year, as every year, I pray I would put more and more of the precious, life giving Word of God before me.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:4-8 NIV