January 15, 2023
In with the New – Part 1
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Time:
Ephesians 4: 25 - 32
Scripture: 

Purchase the CD of this sermon.

$5.00

This powerful series will challenge you to understand your role in the body of Christ. Through the book of Ephesians, Pastor Philip will remind us of the joy and blessings God intends for believers to experience in the church as they live as a united family in Christ.

More From This Series

Transcript

So let’s take our Bibles and turn to Ephesians 4:25-32. Last week we looked at out with the old and we looked at the verses just prior to these verses. And this week and next week, we’re going to look at in with the new. The reason I’m taking two weeks is because the more I study this, it’s rich. My introduction today is going to be long but practical. As I look at the subject matter, all the word of God is profitable, but it seems sometimes, hey, there are passages within the providence of God are just passages themselves seem to be more profitable than others. I was at the funeral and took part in the funeral of Bert Nienhuis recently, and Bert was famous for the statement, “Every day is a good day, but some are better than others.”
And you know what? Every Bible verse is a good verse, but some are better than others. And this passage is so practical, so pastoral. We’re going to talk about talk, talk about lying, talk about using your tongue in a hurtful manner. Is that not practical? We’re going to talk about stealing and working with your hands and being generous towards those who are in need. We’re going to talk about anger and making sure that the devil doesn’t have somewhere to go in your life through anger to ruin things. We’re going to talk about forgiveness. Isn’t it hard to forgive sometimes? Forgiveness is a beautiful word until you’ve someone to forgive. So the more I get into this, I go, “This is worth digging down into. It’s pastoral, it’s counseling in nature.” So bear with us for two weeks in with the new.
Ephesians 4:25-32. Let’s stand in honor of God’s word. Open your copy of God’s word, turn your phone on, follow along. Ephesians 4:25. I’m reading, as you know, from the New King James translation of scripture. I love the history of the King James and I love the modern rendition of the New King James. Both are good, accurate, literal translations. So I commend the New King James to you. That’s what that was all about. Verse 25, “Therefore, putting away lying. Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor. For we are members of one another. Be angry and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your wrath nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor working with his hands what is good that he may have something to give him who has need.
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking be put away from you with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another even as God and Christ forgave you.” So read God word. Amen. You may be seated.
There’s an old preacher’s story about a preacher. This preacher was preaching early last century against the sins and besetting sins of that time in that society. He was preaching against the sins of racism and violence and injustice. And as he preached from the back pew, one of the elderly pillars of the church, an old deacon could be heard yelling out, “Preach it, brother, preach it.” As the preacher moved on, he preached against gambling and got another, “Preach it, brother, preach it.” He then turned his attention to smoking and alcohol consumption and got another rising, “Preacher it, pastor.” Then he finally landed on the sin of gossiping and things went quiet. He paused watching this elderly parishioner and what his response would be. And after a moment or two of awkward silence, there was a subdued voice that said, “Now pastor, you’ve gone from preaching to meddling.”
Good preaching, always meddles. You want to sit under preaching that meddles with you, messes with you, grabs you by the scruff of your collar and neck and brings you before the word and authority of the word. Good preaching moves from gospel indicatives, what God has done for us, who we are in Jesus Christ, the gospel imperatives, what we are to do for him in the light of what he’s done for us. Good preaching is not afraid to get specific about sins that need to be repented of, hard truths that need to be embraced, or lifestyle changes that need to be pursued. Good preaching puts arms and legs on biblical truth and the call of the gospel.
Let me say this and let it be understood that good preaching always instinctively moves from what, to so what, to now what. And that’s a condensed class in homiletics. If you’re a young guy that wants to preach, if you preach, that’s what you need to do. Naturally and instinctively, in your message, you’re going to answer three questions about the text. What? What does it say? So what? What is its relevance today for me and for this audience? And then now what? As we leave, let’s do this in the light of what we learned from the text and its relevance to us. What? So what? Now what? And Paul is doing that here in Ephesians 4:25-32. He’s beginning to meddle. He’s moving from what to, so what, to now what?
Up until this point, there’s been very few imperatives in the book of Ephesians. We noted there was only one command in the first three chapters. In fact, there’s even up to this point, in chapter four, very few imperatives. There’s none in verses one to 16. But when you get to verses 25 to 32, there is 11 of them. Paul’s going to tell us 11 times in this passage, “Here’s what you’re to do. Here’s what you’re not to do, and here’s why you’re to do it, and why you’re to stop doing what you’re not to do.” In homiletical terms, he’s landing the plane. Too many preachers circle the airport. They never seem to land, never seem to meddle, never seem to get specific, never seem to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. But Paul’s landing the plane. He’s telling us to put off the old man and put on the new man, and he gets specific about life and where we live. He wants us to shed certain actions, attitudes, and associations that belong to our life apart from Jesus.
Remember the before and after of last week, the Christian is a person whose story has got two big chapters to it, before Christ and after Christ. And Paul is telling us, “We want to leave behind the things that belong to our past. And now by the grace of God in Christ, we want to put on new attitudes and new associations and new actions.” So let’s come and start to look at this text, verses 25 to 32. Now, the reason we’re going to take two weeks is because I started looking at this text kind of step back a little bit before we get into every verse and the syntax and the meaning of the verses and their linkage to one another. I kind of noticed four observations about this text in its context. This in itself is very good. It’s worth slowing down and just thinking about.
Number one, if you’re taking notes, here, Paul is continuing to pick up on the metaphor of putting off and putting on clothes. He’s used that as a metaphor for putting off the old life and putting on the new life. You’ll see that in verses 22 to 24 where he tells us to put off, concerning the former conduct, the old man and to put on the new man created according to God in true righteousness. And notice verse 25, he’s picking up the same language. He’s still on this thought, “Therefore, put away,” or put offline, stop it. Scroll down to verse 30, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, be put away from you with all malice.”
I was re-reading John Stott on Ephesians this week, very helpful commentary as usual. He said this little statement, “The kind of clothes we wear depends on the role we’re fulfilling,” right? And that’s kind of what Paul’s at. You and I will wear certain clothes for certain occasions when we’re fulfilling certain roles. If you’re a police officer, you’ll put on a uniform. If you’re a judge and holding court, you’ll put on some robes. If you’ve been put into the clinker and put into prison, you’re going to put on an orange jumpsuit. Your clothes will suit your environment. They will make a statement about where you’re at in the occasion you’re in.
And then sometimes our roles change or the situation determines that we’ve got to change our clothes. And so the police officer will put his uniform in the room at the station and then he will put some civvies on to go home. He’ll leave his uniform in the locker. The judge will take off his robes, put his civvies on and go home. The prisoner that has served his time will swap his orange jumpsuit for a pair of jeans and a white shirt. You get the point, and that’s what Paul is saying. Now that you’re in Christ, now that a change has come, what you wear has to change, how you look has to change.
My father was a factory worker most of his life. For the time he worked in a tobacco company, which he always had a little bit of an uneasy conscience about being a baptist deacon, but he worked in this smelly old factory where they made tobacco and cigarettes. And when he come home, I remember as a boy, vividly and religiously, he’s no sooner through the door that he would take off his overalls. And you could smell the smell of the tobacco off them and he’d put them somewhere. My mom would hang them outside to air a little bit and then he would change his clothes because unless he did that, there was no dinner for him. He wasn’t sitting at my mom’s dining room table in his dirty overalls and there was no sitting on the sofa and watching the evening news. And so I watched my father almost every day of his life for many years put off and put on, and that’s where we’re at. Number one, we’re picking up the metaphor of putting off and putting on.
Number two, Paul meddles, gets specific about how they ought to live, what it looks like to put on the new man. He’s going to give us some measurements by which we can see our progress. And he does it with a series of contrasts. Did you notice that? If you look at this text, and I’m going to work through with you today in it, there’s a negative and there’s a positive. Put off lying, that’s a negative. Put on the truth, that’s a positive. Don’t steal, that’s a negative. But work with your hands so you might be able to give to those who are in need, positive. You know what? Put off bitterness and wrath, negative. Put on forgiveness and kindness as God has forgiven you, positive.
Now, what’s interesting about that, these sets of contrasts, you’ve got a negative prohibition and a positive command that’s often underwritten by motivation, put offline, put on the truth, and do it because you’re meant to love your neighbor and be a blessing to the body. But I love the fact that there’s both negative and positive together. It’s a complete circle. It’s not a half a circle, “Here’s what you’re not to do, here’s what you’re not to do, and here’s what you’re not to do,” and Paul leaves it there. He doesn’t. He says, “Here’s what you’re not to do, but here’s what you’re to do.” It’s a complete circle and it’s important that you and I grasp that because I think some of us were brought up in a context, maybe legalistic or otherwise, a strict upbringing, and all you heard was don’t, and all it was was a series of prohibitions. It was a kind of grit your teeth and bear it kind of Christianity.
And you know what? It’s not to be that. It’s yes put off, but it’s put on. Yes, young person, keep your body pure, be a virgin on your wedding day, don’t get involved in sex prior to marriage. But we want you to know if you’ll keep pure and keep yourself for your loved one, her breasts will satisfy you and she’ll be to you like a well that will bring freshness to your life. Don’t do this that you might fully enjoy this, right? Don’t snack and miss the main meal. And that’s something we need to make sure we’re doing. I need to make sure I’m doing that as a pastor, that it’s a full circle. You’re getting the whole council of God. We will admonish you, we will rebuke you, we will call you to turn from sin. But in doing that, we want you to turn towards what’s good and satisfying and eternal in the Lord Jesus. It’s best that you do this.
You need to make sure you do that as a parent. At certain times in life and at certain ages, there’ll be a lot of, “You better not do that. Don’t you do that. You know what you’ll get.” You got to do that, right? But make sure, especially getting into the teen years, when your child can think for themselves, that the negative prohibition is followed by the positive command and the fruits of what it’s like to truly follow Jesus. Even on that sexual issue, you want to say all of that and then say, “But God’s not keeping sex from you. God’s keeping sex for you. This is a good thing.” Make sure you’re completing the circle because we don’t want a Christianity that’s all subtraction. We want a Christianity that also has a lot of addition to it and that’s what’s going on here. And I love that.
I love what Paul says about the Thessalonians and how he describes it, watch the full circle, “You turn to God from idols to serve the true and living God.” Yes, they were to give up their idols, but why not? They’re only a bit of wood or silver or stone. They have mouths that don’t speak. They have ears that don’t hear. Why wouldn’t you? Because you can enjoy the living God who’s personal and intimate and close to you, and the Son’s returning from heaven to take you there. They complete the circle. Turn from, turn to. Don’t, do. Make sure it’s not a series of don’ts. Make sure that your child doesn’t leave your home and all he’s got is, “Thou shalt not.” It’s not good. It’s not cool. It’s not what Paul does with the Ephesians.
I like a story about Spurgeon? What’s not to like? And he’s in London, he’s in the company of this man who likes to talk about himself and he was the chief topic of the conversation, and he liked to talk about his virtues. But the interesting thing was as Spurgeon listened, all of his virtues were stated in the negative, “I don’t do this, and I don’t do that, and I’m better than other people because I don’t do this and I don’t do that.” Spurgeon had enough. It is getting up his nose. And so he says, “Enough.” And he says to the man straight to his face, “Why man? You are simply a bundle of negatives. You don’t drink, you don’t gamble, you don’t swear. What in the name of goodness do you do?” That’s a good little statement.
And make sure as a Christian, you’re not just a bundle of negatives. I’ve met them, haven’t you? They’re a terrible advertisement for Christianity. They don’t make good parents. Just a bundle of negatives. No, don’t steal, work with your hands. Don’t you want to bless people who are in need? Isn’t that positive? Don’t lie, people get hurt when you lie. You break the law of God and judgment falls in you. Don’t lie, speak the truth. Love your neighbor by being an honest man and bless the body. You get it.
In fact, I’ll squeeze this story in. I was going to keep it for Ephesians 5:18-19, but the story is told by Billy Graham’s brother-in-law, Leighton Ford. Then Billy Graham was invited to speak at a large and influential church. He was being hosted. And as he was being shown around and given the context of the next few days of ministry, the man shared with him, “You know what? We’ve had a few awkward days here at the church because one of our church leaders has been found to have been drunk on several occasions. And that’s a behavior that’s unbecoming of a church leader and we agree with that completely. And so the church disciplined them and put them out of fellowship.” In response, Billy Graham asked them on, “That’s interesting. That’s right. But I got another question for you. How long has it been since you put someone out of your church for not being filled by the Spirit?” You get the point? If you don’t, I’m going to help you get it.
Do not be drunk with wine. We’ll get to this in Ephesians five. Do not be drunk with wine, that’s a prohibition and that’s an imperative in the Bible. So it is right to challenge men or women who get drunk. Drunkenness is a sin. Intoxication by drugs or alcohol is a sin. But Paul goes on to complete the circle and it’s the same command, it’s an imperative, “But be filled by the Spirit.” So you’re sinning when you’re drunk and you’re sinning when you’re not filled by the Holy Spirit. What about that? But let’s be honest. We have disciplined people out of our church for drunkenness. When’s the last time we disciplined someone out for not being filled with the Spirit? You get the point. Just notice this beautiful balance, this series of contrast, negative, positive, negative, positive. Make sure that’s going on.
Number three, we’re still on the introduction. This is what holiness looks like and we’re in the context. Notice the word, therefore. It always makes you look back. What’s the therefore therefore? And if you go back to the verse right before it, we’re to be renewed in the Spirit of our mind that we would put on the new man which was created according to God in true holiness and righteousness. So the last thought before Paul gets to the verses we’re looking at is the thought of what? Holiness. So what’s happening now is he’s explaining what holiness is. Therefore, can I talk about holiness? Can I talk about this new man created after the character of God? This man is holy. And what I love about these verses are that they help us define holiness.
I got a question. When you hear the word holy, it kind of is one of those words, isn’t it? That kind of scares you. In fact, you probably conclude, “Well, I wouldn’t put myself in that category, pastor. I’m not holy.” And I don’t know how you measure that. It’s a word that scares us, overwhelms us. In a lot of incidents, it conjures up negative feelings and negative memories because in a lot of contexts, holiness is measured by suits and ties and sad faces and somber voices and strict rules. You’ve grown up perhaps in a legalistic, very strict environment and the word holy has been bandied about, but it’s kind of tied to what you don’t do again. And it’s always in the negative and it’s a joyless Christianity and it’s just full of demands. Maybe you hear the word holiness and many throughout history have heard it and known that they immediately think monasteries where vows of silence and poverty take place.
Here’s what I find fascinating about this passage. Holiness is described as being truthful, being angry when it’s appropriate, being able to control your emotions and not give place to the devil. It’s described as being a hard-working hard worker. It’s described as being encouraging with your words. And it’s described as being able and willing to forgive those that hurt you. Now, that’s holiness. None of the monasteries and clerical garb and silence and vows of poverty. Holiness is about Monday morning and honest work and how you guard your conversation. It’s a life shaped by the gospel. John Owen said this, “Holiness is nothing but the implanting, the writing and the realization of the gospel in our own souls.” That’s what holiness is. And I’m just encouraged by that. I want you to be encouraged by that. You know what? You’re maybe more holy than you think.
And by the way, since we’re talking about holiness, you’ll notice that the focus is on relationships. This is where holiness really shows up in relationships, how we treat one another. It’s one of the greatest marks of holiness because if you look at this text, it’s all about speaking to one another, and helping those who are in need, and not hurting one another, and forgiving one another, and being tender-hearted to one another. Holiness will show up in relationships. Holiness is about the unity of the Spirit and holiness is about the bond of peace. Listen to John Stott since I’ve mentioned him, I’ll mention him again, “Holiness is not a mystical condition experienced in relation to God, but in isolation from human beings.” You cannot be good in a vacuum, but only in the real world of people. See, holiness is not to do with monasteries and detachment from the world and spacing between people and vows of silence. That’s not holiness. Holiness is relationships, husband and wife, parent and child, friend and friend, pastor and people, and how we treat each other. There’s to be no dichotomy between loving God and loving one another.
In fact, Stanley Toussaint said to my friend, Mark Hitchcock, at Dallas Theological Seminary one day, “How a man gets along with others is the true index of how he’s getting along with God.” It’s a good statement. How a man gets along with others is an index to how he is getting along with God. I forget the exact quote, but I think I’m right in saying and paraphrase, G. Campbell Morgan said something like this, “If your dog is not better off for you being a Christian, you’re not a Christian.” If you’re still kicking the dog, you have a long way to go in holiness because holiness is all about treatment of others and things in a godly manner.
All right. There is one more, four. And we’re still in the introduction, but it’s a lot here. We’re going to take two weeks. This is a brilliant passage. Number four, please notice that there’s a reference to the devil and there’s a reference to the Holy Spirit. Did you notice that? Let me show you it. Here we have, verse 26, “Be angry and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your wrath nor give place to the devil.” Devil’s a person, he’s a fallen angel. And because he has fallen beneath God’s glory, he wants to help you do that. He’s an adversary to all things godly and righteous, and he’s in our [inaudible 00:25:14] along with his minions, the demons of hell.
So notice, he’s mentioned, and then notice the Holy Spirit is mentioned. Verse 30, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” So notice that kind of pulling the camera back before we get into the line-upon-line aspect of this text. Paul is picking up where he left off with the image of putting off and putting on. Paul sets before several contrasts, but he completes the circle moving from negative to positive. Paul is showing us in this passage a profile of true holiness, which often and most often shows up in relationships. And Paul is reminding us that our sanctification, our holiness is contested. It will not be easy for you to become holy. You’ll always be walking into a headwind spiritually because yes, you’ve got the Holy Spirit who indwells you, chapter 2:21-22, and he wants to advance God’s work in your life. And the primary tool he will use is the word he wrote, the Bible.
But the devil is real and he’s looking for opportunities to get back some of the grind he lost, your conversion. You’ll notice, we’ll come back to this, this little phrase here, “Give no place to the devil.” It’s a military term. It speaks of a beachhead. Don’t give him a place to land. Don’t let him put a foot in the door. And one of the areas he loves to meddle is with anger. If you are an angry man or woman, the devil loves it. He’ll play with that. He’ll undo God’s work in your life through that. He’ll take some of the territory back. Don’t give him a foothold. Don’t give him a place. In fact, this is the word for beachhead.
It’s been my privilege to walk the cliff coastline of Normandy and to look at Omaha beach and the other beaches that our brave men landed on. And you see something of that in the opening scenes of saving Private Ryan, and you can imagine that moment. But before the end of the day, Eisenhower and Montgomery were needing to know, “Have we got a beachhead? At all costs, get the beachhead, and then we’ll advance towards Berlin.” That’s our word. So I want you to see the tension, these two persons who are active today. One is trying to advance the work of God and the other is trying to get a beachhead in your life to stall the work of God.
Listen to Darrell Johnson in his commentary in Ephesians, “These two exhortations help us realize that we do not live in a neutral universe. Besides us humans, there are two spirits at work in every dimension of our existence, especially in a relational context. One is finite, the devil, the other, thank God, is infinite, the Holy Spirit, but both are at work.” I just think that’s worth selecting out of the text and making it an emphasis introduction. Your holiness will be contested. Your Christian life will be a struggle. That’s why we’re told in Colossians 3:5, “Put to death the deeds of the flesh,” the old man, the old habits, put them to death. That’s strong language. Isn’t that what John Owen talks about, be killing sin or sin will be killing you? The devil’s serious about destroying your life. And some of us are not half serious about our Christian walk, which means we live in defeat and we get preyed upon by the forces of evil and the world around us and become victim to our own flesh.
Please get serious. Be killing sin or sin will be killing you. Pornography, gossip, materialism. We can go down the list. Be killing those things because they will kill you. That’s why J.C. Ryle talks about holy violence. We’ve got to bring some holy violence against our flesh, the world and the devil. Galatians 5:17, 1Peter 2:11, just realize that your Christian life is not a context of neutrality. There are forces in conflict, the devil and the Holy Spirit, and they’re fighting over you. Now, we do want to remind ourselves of what Darrell Johnson just said. One is finite and the other is infinite. “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.” So it’s a conflict, but it’s an unfair contest because as we yield to the power of the Holy Spirit, we get victory, for sure.
I think I’ve told you, when June and I were enjoying our 25th anniversary, I spoke that particular weekend down at Shadow Mountain Community Church with David Jeremiah, which was always a privilege, I did it for several years, and we decided to kind of piggyback off that and just enjoy a romantic weekend down in San Diego. What’s not to like? And doing the romantic thing, I took June over to the Navy SEAL training facility and we spent an afternoon there. I did. We had a guy in our church at the time who was the leader of SEAL Team 7. He’s still our friend to this day.
In fact, one of my prized possessions, if ever in my office over at Chaparral Court is a boxed American flag in the shape of a triangle. You’ve seen flags folded up. And with it is a certificate written out to me from the commander of the SEAL training facility down there on Coronado Island thanking me for my interest in the men there and the prayers I had for this brother Timothy. And there’s a statement on it that, “This flag was worn by a Navy SEAL commando in actions against America’s enemy.” So I prized that. That’s an aside.
So we called him up and said, “Hey Tim, we’re down here having a romantic getaway. Can we come over and hang out with you guys?” It was more me than June, you can imagine. There was the other fun things we had planned for the rest of the day. Several things stood out, but here’s the one thing I want to get to. There was a little parade ground. It’s kind of funny looking in that there were sets of flippers that had been painted onto the parade ground where these Navy SEALs would stand when they were come to attention, but not far from me was a plaque that said these two things. Number one, which is a famous Navy SEAL statement, “Yesterday was your easiest day.” If you have a badge that says that, that’s one of their statements, yesterday was your easiest day. That’s good to bring in the life, that’ll make you persevere. Yesterday was your easiest day. Suck it up and get going. But here’s the one that I remember, “The enemy thank you today for not giving 100%.”
I want to turn that and leave this last thought, but I want to turn it. There are two forces at work in this world always, and they’re fighting over you and me and the souls of man. Thankfully, one’s infinite and one’s finite, but they’re real. The devil’s powerful, but not all powerful. But I want to tell you, when you skip your devotions, when you skip church, when you’re not serious about your walk with God, and you’re not killing sin, I just want you to know, not that I often want to speak for the devil, but he does want to thank you today for not giving 100%, for making his job easier. Paul says, “Don’t give him a place,” don’t give him a beachhead.
Now, the sermon. Now, we’re going to get into this. That’s why I’m taking two weeks. Who knows? Maybe three. But I think we’ll cover it next week. But there’s so much good stuff, right? Speech, lying, stealing, anger, unforgiveness, all good stuff. So we’re going to look at putting off and putting on in several categories, words, wrath, work, worship, wounds. Let’s deal with the first one for the time that remains, putting off and putting on with regards to words. Have you read Proverbs 18:21 recently? Life and death is in the power of the tongue, and just stop. If that text is true, and as Protestants, we believe it’s true, the quality of your life, it will be determined on the quality of your speech and the things you hear spoken by others. That’s powerful. And because of that, I’m not surprised then that Paul deals twice with speech. And we’re going to cover these two thoughts quickly.
Look at verse 25, “Put away lying.” Look at verse 29, “Let no corrupt word proceed from your mouth.” You see, our words are very important, what we say, how we say it, when we say it, and sometimes what we feel to say when people need to hear something. All of that has a great bearing on the quality of our lives, the quality of our marriage, the quality of our relationship with our children, our friends. Whisperers separate friends. Parents that scold mercilessly scar children. The quality of life is determined by the quality of our words. It’s such a small part of our body, isn’t it? But it has such great influence.
Go to James 3:4-5. And James will say, the rudder of a ship, small, but it has great influence. I work near one of the great shipbuilding factories in the world, Harland & Wolff, where the Titanic was built. I remember scenes on several times, super tankers, massive vessels being built at Harland & Wolff, so long that sailors, when the seas were flat, would use bicycles to get from one end of the ship to the next. But proportionately, the rudder was nothing. But in the open sea, that small rudder could change that massive supertanker. That’s James’s point, just like the bit in a horse’s mouth, small, big influence. Same with your tongue. Please. I’ve done it. You do it. Let’s stop doing it. When we say something that’s rude, unholy, it’s not helpful, stop saying to ourselves “It’s just words.” It’s not true.
Life and death is in the power of the tongue. Paul addresses it twice. In fact, on average, most of us will spend about 20% of our life talking. Some women a little bit more. Sorry ladies, it’s fact. It’s just true. In fact, I love the story of the two ladies, the two women who were on a flight for the first time. They got saddled into their seat and they flagged down the flight attendant and they said, “Would you tell the pilot something for us?” And the attendant said, “Yes. What would you like me to tell him?” And one of the ladies said, would you tell him that to fly faster than the speed of sound? Because we want to talk.” It’s a good thing to talk. It’s a blessing.
Animals communicate, only people talk, right? I mean, animals communicate. Dogs bark, and cats meow, and cows moo, whales send kind of signals to each other. But when a whale communicates with another whale, I don’t think on any given day, one of them is saying to the other, “Hey, the water’s cold today. What do you think?” But we talk like that because that’s an ability we have as unique creations within the creation and we have got to govern our tongues.
There’s two speeches we’ve got to reject and we’ll get into some positive stuff. Let’s keep moving here. He talks about deceptive speech, put away lying, falsehood, and embrace the truth. He’ll talk about we’ve got to speak the truth in love. And we ought to speak the truth and stop lying. Why? Because Jesus is the truth. Why would you and I as a follower of the one who is the truth speak untruth. God created us in righteousness and God hates lying. Proverbs 6:16-19. So we’ve got to put away deceptive speech. What is it? Well, blatant falsehoods, untruths, exaggerations, pretense, cheating, spurious and false doctrine, select use of data and information to give the wrong impression. That’s lying. Adding fabrications to something that is true, exaggerating, saying one thing to someone and saying another thing to another, gossip, or doing another thing. See, we lie with our mouth. By the way, we also lie with our bodies. We can be smiling with our face and our heart be somewhere else in terms of the person we’re addressing. That’s lying. That’s just not true.
There was a famous book written several years ago called The Day America Told the Truth, and 91% of Americans said that they lied regularly. Time Magazine did a study a while ago and found that 22% of people pad their resumes and tell lies. In fact, you see that often on the news. People being found out. We’ve got this congressman or senator, I forget, up in New York who told us lies about who he was and what school he went to. Our president lies quite a bit about where he’s been and what he’s done. I mean, think about the TV personality, Brian Williams, who lied about his coverage in Iraq. He told about being on a helicopter trip into enemy territory and being shot. Well, it was not true. It’s just the fact that men lie. There’s a verse in Psalm 116:11, David says, “I said in my haste, all men are liars.” I love what old Vernon McGee said, “I’ve had time to think about it, all men are liars.”
And we’re being challenged here that that kind of lifestyle, and we’ve all done it, and we’re all tempted still to do it even as believers, but kind of being an inveterate liar and using lying and deception and exaggeration, we’ve done that willingly and often in unsaved days. But that’s got to stop. That’s not who we are now as we’re followers of the one who’s the truth. That’s not who we are now created in the image of a God who hates lying. So we’ve got to stop that, put an end to that. The Christian is to be a person who’s honest and reliable and whose word is their bond.
I was fascinated to learn this. There’s a story about our great American president, George Washington when he was a little boy, he took a hatchet, an axe, and he cut down a tree. But what he didn’t realize though, he was cutting down his father’s favorite cherry tree. And when the father came home and discovered this, he was a little irate. And the story goes that George, even seeing the anger on his father’s face, was willing to admit that he had done it. He said, “I cannot lie, father. You know I cannot lie. I did that with my little hatchet.” And the father embraced him and said, “Well, I’m discouraged and disappointed, but you know what? I’ll get past that. I’d rather have a son who tells the truth 1,000 times.”
It’s a great story, but it’s false. It’s a lie. That’s not true. That never happened to George Washington. That was put in by one of his biographers as an exaggeration. How interesting. Here we are trying to tell you how good a guy, an honest guy George Washington, and we use a lie to tell it. We don’t need that to know that George Washington was an honest man, but there’s the temptation. So the devil’s a liar. I don’t want anything like him. Jesus was the truth. I want to be like him. So we’re to put off lying. And here’s the motivation. Did you notice that? We’re to speak the truth to our neighbor and remember that we’re members of one another. Exodus 20:16, “Don’t bear false witness against your neighbor.” Don’t do that. Let your word be your bond.
You go back to the old days where materially we were pure. And I don’t want to whitewash it as if it was the millennial kingdom or anything like that, but I think it’s fair to go back and say in the old days, even the poorest of men, their word was their bond. They valued their integrity. We need to be like that in the light of the cross and the person of God. And we’re not to lie because it’s a breaking of God’s law. It’s bearing witness against our neighbor. But it’s more than an issue of morality. It’s an issue of brotherly love, because when you and I lie, we fracture and fray the bond between each other.
We belong to one another here this morning. If you’re a Christian, I belong to you and you belong to me. And where time and circumstance allows, we want to help each other. Lying won’t help that. It’ll break that. And when you and I lie and gossip and talebear and exaggerate and say one thing with our body and think another thing in our heart, we are putting pressure on the body unity of our church. Let’s not do that.
In fact, one writer has a great analogy about that. He says this, “Paul pictures the church as the body of Christ, a healthy body, a healthy church. To have a healthy body, each part must send true readings to one another.” So let me just pause. Are you getting the story? So he’s saying, look, if your body’s going to function and be healthy, it better be communicating to itself in truth. One part of the body must not be saying to another part of the body what’s untrue. And people who have got physical issues and disabilities, something’s malfunctioning in their body and true messages are not being sent.
And this writer goes on to say this, “What if our stomach was hungry but sent the message to the head it was not hungry? Then you’d be hungry. What if the brain told our right foot to go to the right and our left foot to go to the left? You would be in a fix. What if your hand sent a message to the brain that the fire before it is not hot but cold and you stuck your hand in the fire? You’d have a problem.” You get his analogy? For a body to function physically, our brain and other senses in our body need to be communicating truth to one another. And it’s the same in the body of Christ. When you and I don’t communicate truth to one another and be honest with one another, we’re bringing disability to the body of Christ. So that’s talk that’s deceptive.
Quickly and finally talk that’s destructive. Look verse 29, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification that it may impart grace to the hearer.” The word corrupt is an interesting word that means foul or rotten. You may have a translation that has… I think the Old king James has unwholesome. Let no unwholesome words proceed from your mouth. This is a word that speaks of rotten fruit, rotten trees and rotten fish. Matthew 17:17-18 talks about a bad tree and bad fruit, rotten tree, rotten fruit, and it talks about rotten fish. Matthew 13:48, when the fisherman draws in his net, there’s some good stuff in there, he keeps, and there’s some bad stuff in there, he throws away.
So food that’s rotten can’t be eaten nor should be eaten, and words that are corrupt should not be spoken or consumed. That’s Paul’s point. Don’t let unwholesome rotten rancid words escape your lips. And by the way, when you and I eat rotten fruit or rancid meat, we get sick. And when you and I speak a diet of rotten words and rancid ideas, the body gets sick.
I don’t have time to go here. Six wicked ways of using words. I took it from the book of Proverbs. I’m going to go through them as a list so that they’re on the message as we’re recording and you can get them later. Or if you can write fast enough here, here’s six ways not to speak. This is unwholesome, rancid rotten speech. Flattery, Proverbs 28:23. Boasting, Proverbs 25:14. Lying, Proverbs 6:16-19. Talking too much, Proverbs 10:9. Anger, Proverbs 15:1. Gossip, Proverbs 26:20. I think you get it. We mustn’t allow that kind of corrupt conversation to escape our lips.
I love Psalm 141:3. It kind of ties into this idea, “Let no corrupt speech proceed from your lips.” Here’s what you and I need to pray, “Lord, set a guard over my mouth.” I know there’s no physical comparison. Sometimes you put a guard over your dog’s mouth. Some of us could do with that. I’m not advocating that in any physical manner or maybe that’s a thought, but put some kind of guard over your mouth and remind yourself, “Before I say this, does it need to be said? Before I say this, is it true, helpful, necessary, kind, instructive?” “Lord, set a guard over my mouth. Keep watch over the doors of my lips.” What an image when it comes to this kind of talk. We’ve got the bridle our tongues because once these kind of words, flattery, boasting, lying, too much talk, anger, gossip, escape, there’s no getting them back and the damage will have been done.
It is said that a man came to a prophet of old and asked about making amends for a false accusation he made against a friend. The prophet told him, “Here’s what you need to do. I want you to put a feather on every doorstep in the village. And the next morning, I want you to go back and collect the feathers.” The man said, “That’s impossible. The wind will have scattered them beyond recall.” The prophet looked at him and said, “And so it is with reckless words. Once they’re gone, my friend, they’re gone and the damage is done.” Now, the grace of God can repair that, will get the bitterness and forgiveness. I just want you to understand where we’re at.
And then finally notice that we move from the negative to the positive. So don’t let corrupt, rancid, rotten words escape your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification and impart grace to the hearer. Instead of using words like swords to pierce, we need to use words like trowels to build. The word edification simply means that. Edifice, buildings to build up, you need to use your conversation as a parent, as a spouse, as a friend, as a church member, as an employee, as a leader, a coach, a businessman, use it to build up, not to tear down. In fact, it’s not surprising, then he goes on, that would mean being gracious in your speech. Let your words impart grace, not guilt, not feelings of unworthiness or discouragement. Let them impart grace. Let your words be intuitive and instructive and inspiring.
And notice timely. Notice that word necessary. Think about that. Every time you’re about to speak, is it necessary? In fact, this is better translated in the RSV, “Does it fit in the new occasion?” “Lord, is this the right word? And is this the right time? And am I saying it in the right manner? I want this to fit the occasion.” That’s good. Two verses on that. Proverbs 15:23, listen to these words, and aren’t these good? “A word spoken in due season, how good is it?” You’ll bless someone this week in a note, a phone call, an email, or a physical conversation if you bring them something they need to hear, when they need to hear it. It’s so good. Your children will love it, your spouse will love it, your neighbors will love it, your workmates will love it.
Or even a better verse is Proverbs 25:11, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” What does that mean? Well, that’s an ornament, ladies. There seems to be a picture of some beautiful oriental ornament that’s like a plate that was crafted in silver, and then there were golden apples crafted in gold and set on the silver. Apples of gold in settings of silver. Now, here’s the point. It took a craftsman to do that. Took a really good metal worker to do that. And a word fitly spoken is like that. It’s been crafted, polished, and now it’s ready for display. You can say it. I love it.
Look, again, we don’t have time to go here. Six wonderful ways of using words as we wrap up. You’ve got time or listen to it later, encourage others, Proverbs 25:25. Teach wisdom, Proverbs 16:23. Rebuke in love, Proverbs 28:23. Diffuse tension with soft words, Proverbs 15:1. Confess sin, Proverbs 28:13. And profess faith, Proverbs 3:5-6, acknowledge God in all your ways.
All right. I’ll finish with this story. Police officer pulls over a speeding car. The officer comes to the car, the man winds down the window, he says, “Sir, I clocked you at 80 miles an hour.” The guy says, “Officer, I think you got it wrong. I put my control speed on 60 miles an hour. You may want to check your radar and maybe it needs recalibrated.” His wife who’s sitting beside him knitting on the other side of the car, she says, sweetly, “Now, don’t be silly dear. You know that this car doesn’t have cruise control.” So the officer starts writing out a ticket. And as he’s writing out the ticket, the husband turns to the wife and he growls, “Can’t you keep your mouth shut for once?” The wife smiles demurely and says, “You should be thankful that your radar detector went off when it did.” So the officer makes out a second ticket for his illegal radar unit.
The man is kind of angry by this stage, clenching his teeth, turns to his wife and says, “Woman, can’t you keep your mouth shut?” The officer looks at him once again and says, “By the way, I’ve just noticed you’re not wearing your seat belt. That’s an automatic fine, 75 bucks.” The driver says, “Well, officer, you got it wrong. I took it off when you pulled me over so that I could reach for my license in my back pocket.” His wife says, “Now, dear, you know very well, you didn’t have your seat belt on. You never wear your seat belt when you’re driving.” The officer starts writing a third ticket. And as he turns to his wife and barks, “Why don’t you shut up?” Having seen all of this, the officer turns to the woman and says, “Does your husband always talk to you like this?” To which she replies, “Heavens know, only when he is been drinking.”
All right. You get the point. Shut up, woman. So here’s the point as we close, close on a kind of fun note. But on a serious note, given what we’ve just studied, we’ll pick it up next week, like the man in our story, stop lying, stop exaggerating, stop stretching the truth. But like the woman in our story, we all need to shut up. We all need to speak less, and we all need to decide if we’re going to speak, that we’re going to speak from a righteous heart that speaks right words at the right time with the right disposition. You know what those right words are? Those are words informed by the Bible.
So as you leave today, go home, today, tomorrow, the day after, across this whole week, read your Bible, listen to God, have a conversation with God through his word and through prayer, and then ask God for opportunities this week to bring a good word to a bad situation, and be a blessing to anyone around you. Let your words be trowels that build up not swords that pierce and wound.
Father, we thank you for our time in the word. We’ve slowed down because Paul is meddling here. We’re almost four and a half chapters into this book, and now he’s given us things to do, and he’s getting real specific, and he’s telling us what needs to be put off and what needs to be put on, and he sets these contrasts. Lord, we do want to leave today as parents, as friends, as members of the body, and we want to make sure we complete the circle, that in our own lives, in the discipleship of our children, we are teaching them no, but we’re teaching them yes. We’re telling them to stay away from this so that they can enjoy God over here in this.
Lord help us to realize that our lives are being fought over right now. Our marriage is between the Holy Spirit and the devil. But thank you, one’s greater than the other, and victory is assured. But the fight is on. The struggle is real. Lord, help us, in defining our spirituality or our holiness, to make sure we define it in how good we are with people, that we not have some kind of monastical view of the Christian life. We’re over here having our little conversations about great theological points, but we don’t know how to love people and treat them well and bring Christ’s presence into a situation.
Lord, help us to get specific about our words. Help us to do some inventory, help us to get rid of the destructive words and the deceptive words, and speak truth and speak words that part grace to the hearer. Help us to shut up. Help us to stop falling in love with the sound of our voice. Help us to listen more to you and listen more to others, and then craft words that are just right for the occasion. Less is better, truth is more. For we pray these things in Jesus name. Amen.