April 10, 2011
Those All Important words – Part 2
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Proverbs 18:21

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Proverbs teaches us the power of our words and their ability to reveal our hearts. Our language has great potential to bring joy or hurt in life, making it important for us to be mindful of what we say. Prayer and worship are insufficient alone - they must be coupled with love and action. We need to be people who put words into concrete action rather than talk without meaning. The Book of Proverbs helps equip believers with the tools necessary to express ourselves lovingly and carefully speak truth into every situation!

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Let’s take our Bibles and turn back to Proverbs chapter 18; verse 21. As I said this morning, I want to come back tonight and finish our message on the use and the abuse of speech. We intitle our message, Those All Important Words. We turn to this wonderful book of Proverbs, which enables us to live a life that glorifies God, and is effective and satisfying in the long run for us. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
Came across a great story this week in my studies concerning an ambassador from Spain who didn’t know much English, or he didn’t know English very well probably, to put it more accurately. He came to the United States to serve his country on assignment, and during one official occasion he met up with the American diplomat who began to engage him in conversation. Making some small talk the diplomat asked the Spanish ambassador if he had any children. The ambassador, in broken English, tried to explain, unfortunately, his wife could not have children. He started by saying, “My wife is impregnable.” Looking at the face of the American who drew him astir, he realized that wasn’t quite the right way to put it, and so he offered this. “What I mean to say is my wife is inconceivable.” That obviously made things worse, so trying to redeem himself he finally said, “What I’m really trying to say is my wife is unbearable.”
Been there, done that, right? You’re looking for the right word, and while you’re looking for the right word you keep talking and the hole gets deeper and darker, and there you are. Finding the right word, conveying the right message, is a challenge even for those to whom English is not a second language, but a first and mother tongue.
And so we come to the book of Proverbs again tonight because we want to learn how to say the right thing at the right time, in the right way. That’s so critical to life. We learned this morning that life and death is in the power of the tongue. How we employ our tongues matters a great deal. We saw this morning that it determines the quality of one’s life, one’s relationships, one’s marriage, church fellowship, the ability to communicate effectively and evangelize successfully. But before we go any further I do want to say that the book of Proverbs not only reminds us of how important speech is because it determines to a great degree the quality of our life and the happiness that we bring to others and the joy we know ourselves, but it’s important because our mouth betrays the condition of our heart. You can learn a lot of things about a person by the words they use and the things they say.
Go to Proverbs chapter 12; verse 24. I know we have been skipping around, but that’s the only way to preach the book of Proverbs. I trust if you can keep up. You’ll maybe get the CD and listen to this message again. But in Proverbs 12; verse 23 we read, “A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims foolishness.” A fool gives himself away by his speech. A foolish heart will betray itself in foolish talk. Look at chapter 16; verse 23. “The heart of the wise teaches his mouth and adds learning to his lips.” There you see a relationship between what we say and our hearts. In fact, the critical verses, Proverbs 18: verse 4, “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters.” Our words spring from deep within. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 12: verses 33 through 34, “That out of the heart the mouth speaks.”
Vince Havner put it this way, “What’s down in the well will come up in the bucket.” Our mouths give us away. They betray our spiritual condition. They betray the state of one’s heart, and that’s why it’s very important that you and I listen to what we’re saying, because if we listen to what we’re saying it’s like putting a stethoscope to your heart and you’ll be able to see what your spiritual condition is like. If you’re saved, if you’re making progress in the Christian faith, your words will portray that. Philip Brooks, the Puritan, said, “You can tell a metal by its tinkling, and you can tell a man by his talking.” That takes us back some time when you could really tell the difference between copper and silver. Maybe some of our seniors remember a day when you could hear the jingle of a coin and know what type of coin it was. And it’s a great little statement. “You can tell a metal by its tingling, and you can tell a man by his talking.”
Our words are very important. They betray and they belie the condition of our hearts. We may say that we’re spiritual, we may give testimony to the fact that we’re saved, but what we say in between saying those things will help us determine how real that statement is.
So let’s get to looking at these words so we can take a good look at ourselves. But I want to move on to a second category of words that the book of Proverbs will have us look at and consider. Not only should we be concerned about words that hurt, but we should be concerned about words that hide. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this, but I do want to cover it to some degree, because paradoxically the book of Proverbs not only speaks about the power of the tongue and the impact that our speech can have, but paradoxically it speaks about the tongue’s weakness. Proverbs speaks of how weightless and worthless words can become if they’re untrue, if they’re insincere, and if they’re not acted upon. Just because we say something doesn’t make it so. Just because we deny something doesn’t prove that the denial is right.
Words can be weightless and worthless if they are not underwritten by integrity and intention. The book of Proverbs warns us that words can be used to cloak and to hide. They can become smoke and mirrors hiding what others don’t want us to see. They can be given in the place of action. They can create an illusion that is far from reality. And the book of Proverbs would have us think about that for a moment. Words that hide. There’s a real danger that we can hide behind words. We can cloak something that’s wrong in our lives by the right kind of words.
Mere talk is no substitute for deeds. That’s one of the lessons from the book of Proverbs. Chapter 14: verse 23 says, “In all labor there is profit, but idle chatter leads to poverty.” Idle chatter leads to poverty. The point there is that actions always speak louder than words. Idle chatter never earned a wage packet, and without that wage packet you cannot buy food or exist. You’ll be brought to poverty. You might talk about going down to the employment office to get yourself a job. You might talk about turning up on the construction site and getting hired, but unless you do it its mere talk, and it doesn’t achieve a thing. Someone has said that well done is always better than well said, and that’s true. The book of Proverbs talks about the danger of mere talk not being enough. Mere talk is no substitute for deeds, and no matter how many words you say, it doesn’t change the facts, should they be other than you say.
Look at Proverbs 26. Words can be used to cloak wicked intentions. Look at Proverbs 26: verse 24. “He who hates disguises it with his lips.” Words that hide. And lays up the seed within himself and he speaks kindly. Do not believe him. For there are seven abominations in his heart. Words in his mouth, kindness is not in his heart. In fact, there’s wickedness there. There’s this disconnection that’s dangerous and deceptive and damaging. The book of Proverbs warns us. In fact, look at Proverbs 24 in verse 12, just as another example of what we’re talking about here, mere words don’t change the facts. Proverbs 24 in verse 12, “If you say surely we did not know this, does not he who wears the heart consider it? He who keeps your soul, does he not know it? And will he not render to each man according to his deeds?”
It’s talking about someone’s denying something. And it may be true, but only God knows, and someday God will determine. They can deny it all they want, but if God sees through and sees the heart and knows the heart, well just because you deny something doesn’t change the fact that you did something. And there’s a great reckoning that’s going to sort and straighten that all out. So the book of Proverbs warns us about just talking. Give you one other example of this. Look at Proverbs 29: verse 19. “Mere words cannot compel a response.” 29: verse 19, “A servant will not be corrected by mere words. For though he understands, he will not respond.” What’s the point of that proverb? While a master may come in and correct a servant, or a master may come in and demand something of a servant, but mere words don’t bring about a response unless the servant hears, understands and commits with his will, and out of an obedient heart does what the master has asked. Otherwise, its mere words.
And that’s our point. Words can cloak and hide, if those words are not true and sincere and backed up with obedience. And if we’re making an application, the point is this. That saying and doing are two different things, and we’ve got to be careful that we don’t speak about something so often that we create an illusion that we’re actually doing it. There’s a real danger that we could be out every Wednesday night praying for lost souls, and we’ve done that for so long we may have created the illusion that we’ve actually got a burden for souls. And we’ve actually deceived ourselves and others, because while we pray for souls on Wednesday night we never open our mouths to speak for Jesus any other day of the week. And it’s all mere talk. And saying and doing something are two different things.
Words are not enough. Look at Titus 1: verse 10 to see this. I’ll give you one other example along with it in a moment. But Titus 1: verse 10 warns us about this. Titus 1: verse 10, speaking of false teachers, but nevertheless there’s a point. “There are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households teaching things which ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain.” Look at the description of these false teachers, these professors of faith in Jesus Christ, those of the circumcision. Paul says they are idle talkers. Mere words don’t amount to reality. They may say they love Jesus, but by their actions and their false doctrine they undermine the great truth of salvation by grace alone, and faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. We don’t need Moses, we only need Jesus. But these idle talkers will tell you something else.
The God of truth despises the sacrifice of fools. Go back to Ecclesiastes 5. This is one of the wisdom books along with Proverbs. Here’s what we read, “Walk prudently when you go to the house of God, and draw near to hear, rather than to give the sacrifice of fools for they do not know that they do evil.” Verse 2, “Do not be rash with your mouth and let not your heart order anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, you’re on the earth. Let your words be few.” Verse 4, “When you make a vow to God and do not delay, do not delay the path for he has no pleasure in fools.” There is the repetition of the word fools from verse 1. What is the sacrifice of fools? It’s someone that says to God I’m going to do great thing for your glory but they never get round to doing it, they make these vows, promises, statements about what they’re going to do for God’s kingdom, for God’s glory, but it never comes to anything. And the book says that’s the sacrifice of fools, and it’s evil.
Most people don’t detect it because when they see you singing on a Sunday, or they hear me preaching on a Sunday, they’re not with us the rest of the week to see if we have offered the sacrifice of fools to God. But God sees that. Prayer is no substitute for action. Words are no substitute for action. Hymn singing is no substitute for a lack of gracious words at home. Worship without spirit is untrue. God has no time for a bunch of talkers. Faith without works is dead. Theology without love is nothing. So let’s be careful here folks. Let’s not be like Mr. Talkative in Pilgrim’s Progress.
If you’ve read Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyon introduces us to a very interesting character that meets Faithful on the journey towards heaven. And Fearful is taken in by Mr. Talkative. He loves to talk about things heavenly, things earthly, things moral, things evangelical, things sacred, things profane, things past, things to come, things foreign, things at home, things essential, things circumstantial, providing it can all be done with profit through his own words. Fearful enjoys this initial conversation with Talkative. And then Faithful engages Christian, and introduces Christian to this new character, Mr. Talkative. And Faithful says, “Do you know him?” And Christian says to Faithful, “Yes I do.” And I love this statement in Pilgrim’s Progress. “He is the son of one Mr. Say-well, who dwells on Prating-row.”
And then Christian warns Faithful not to be taken in by Talkative, who talks a great game, but performance is lacking. In fact, Christian says this about him. “You’re saying that he is a pretty man brings to mind what I have observed in the work of a painter whose pictures show best at a distance, but very near more unpleasing.” And what Christian is saying in that picture of the painter is if you look closer at Mr. Talkative and get behind his words, you’re going to find emptiness. You’re going to find a form of Godliness that denies its power. It’s all talk. And you know what? You and I need to be careful that we don’t become like Mr. Talkative. We talk a great game, but performance is lacking.
Well, let’s move on and look at words that heal. Words that hurt. Words that hide. Now we’re moving to the positive admonition here of the book of Proverbs. Words that heal. There is a certain use of words and there’s a certain content in that speech that builds people up rather than brings them down. Words that promote life. Proverbs 12: verse 25 says this, “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.” The book of Proverbs talks about good speech, wholesome talk. Speech that heals and helps people. Look at Proverbs 10: verse 11, speaking of the righteous, “The mouth of the righteous,” that’s the man that knows God and the woman that loves Jesus Christ and both who follow the word of God, “The mouth of the righteous is a well of life, but violence covers the mouth of the wicked.” The man who knows God has got a tongue that builds up and doesn’t break down.
Proverbs 12: verse 18. “There is one who speaks like the piercing of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health.” You and I want to use our tongue to promote happiness and holiness and health in the lives of others. So let’s look at some of the form of words that will promote peace, and multiply joy, and smooth out disagreements, and cultivate good conversation. If you’re taking notes here’s the first category of words that heal. Number one, thoughtful words. Now, we looked earlier today at the fact that if we’re not careful we can speak thoughtless words, reckless words, words that we put no thought into and we just blurt them out. The tongue of the fool gushes foolishness, but the man who is wise speaks sparingly.
And so here we have the first category. Words that are spoken that have been pondered and thought about carefully. Look at Proverbs 25: verse 20 as an example of what we’re talking about. Proverbs 25: verse 20, “Like one who takes away a garment in cold weather, and like vinegar on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.” There’s thoughtless speech, there’s speech that someone really hasn’t thought about. If someone has got a heavy heart they don’t need you to whistle around them. They don’t need you to sing songs around them. That’s thoughtless. Not thoughtful. Not wise. No, you need to be more tactful, because in Proverbs 17: verse 14, we read this, “The beginning of strife is like releasing water. Therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts.” Again, here is another proverb that encourages thoughtful words.
Hold back. Dam up your words. Think about them before you let them gush out, because the beginning of strife is like releasing water. Once it’s out and starts going, events are going to get carried along in that stream of speech. And if it’s not good then the situation will be not good. And if it’s good then the situation will be good. You and I need to be tactful and thoughtful with our words. In Proverbs 10: verse 19, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” But the verse we really want to go to is Proverbs 15: verse 28. “The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.” The heart of the righteous studies how to answer.
You see, listen, if you want to write down a good statement I like these one liners. Some of them I get from books, some of them are my own, this one’s my own. “The last thing that you should say is the first thing that comes into your mouth.” The last thing you say is the first thing that comes into your mouth, because the heart of the righteous studies how to answer. We usually don’t get it right first time, or we certainly won’t get it right first time if we don’t pause, and pray, and reflect, and take into account who we’re speaking to, and how they will receive what we’re about to say. So be thoughtful.
Proverbs 25: verse 11, again is a beautiful verse, one worth ringing in your Bible. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Aptly spoken, appropriate, fitting, measured to size. In fact, there’s a beautiful picture here. What we have basically got here is some kind of ornament. If you go into some of our homes you’ll see on some of our coffee tables maybe some center piece that we maybe bought when we were on vacation. It might be woodwork, it might be metalwork, it might be ceramic, but there it sits. And that’s the picture here. There’s a beautiful ornament sitting in this person’s house. It’s gold apples on plates of silver. Crafted, worked on.
And what the Bible is saying here is that just as a craftsman works on that ornament before it’s put on display, so you and I need to craft our words. We need to work on our words before we ever put them on display. Don’t put out half finished words anymore than a craftsman would put out half finished work. Work on your words. Craft them. Make them fit appropriately. Don’t make someone awkward by an awkward word. Be thoughtful.
In fact, Jesus tells us in Matthew 12 that every idle word will be given account for. In the Greek there we have a word that’s a compound word, that means free from work. What is an idle word? An idle word is a word that wasn’t worked on. A thoughtless word that we will regret because God will remind us of it on the final day. And so here we have an encouragement to use thoughtful words. In fact, an extension of this point, we won’t belabor it, is that if you’re going to use thoughtful words you’ve got to listen and be quiet. Listening is a great way to learn how to speak.
Proverbs 18: verse 13, “He who answers a matter before he learned, it is folly and shame to him.” Listen. Be silent, because silence communicates prudence and wisdom. Proverbs 11: verse 12, “He who is devoid of wisdom despises a neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his peace.” So before you speak, listen, be quiet. Think about what you’ve heard. Think about what you’re going to say. Work on what you’re going to say, and when you’re ready and you’ve done all those things, put it out there for someone to hear.
Too often our words are thoughtless. We don’t listen, we prattle. We respond thoughtlessly. I may have told you before, the story of Franklin D. Roosevelt and his frustration with the mindless replies and the blind stares he would receive at the State occasions when he was on a reception line. And so he thought one night to have a bit of fun and to test out his theory that no one really listened, and they just jabbered mindlessly. He said, with a big smile to each guest that came down the line, “I killed my grandmother this morning.” Nine times out of 10 he would get, “Hi, lovely. Keep up the good work Mr. President.” Until one foreign diplomat really heard what he said, “I killed my grandmother this morning.” To which he replied, “I’m sure she had it coming.”
Well, great little story about thoughtful words. Be thoughtful, which leads us to a second category of healing words and helpful words. Timely words. We’ve touched on it, but it’s a point in and by itself. Think about what you’re going to say, and think about is this the right time to say it? You’ll never have to say sorry for something you never say it. And so one of the challenges of speech and good conversation is saying the right thing, appropriate words, apt words, but also saying the right thing at the right time. A timely word is a skill and an art, and it’s to be admired. And the book of Proverbs actually tells us it’s to be pursued as a skill. Work on saying the right thing, and take yourself to the workshop and the word shed, and work on learning when to say it.
Holding your tongue until the most appropriate and propitious time. Look at Proverbs 10: verse 14, “Wise people store up knowledge, but the mouth of the foolish is near destruction.” You don’t have to say everything you know. Store it up, keep it, and then when the appropriate time comes, share it. Store up, shut up, and at the appropriate time speak up, and you’ll be very effective. A great verse is Proverbs 15: verse 23. Again, this is one the ring with your pen. ” A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, and a word spoken in due season, how good it is.” That’s our verse right there. This is the timely word. A word spoken in due season, at the appropriate moment, at the right time, how good it is. It’s better than if you had said it the day before, or said it the day after.
Now this is difficult, I know, but I think if you’re patient and you acquire some people skills, and you’re sensitive to the prompting of the spirit of God, and you read the word of God, and learn the lessons from foolish and wise speaking, that you and I can indeed be like this. It will require patience. It will involve sensitivity. It will require us holding our tongue, storing up our knowledge until you realize, you know what, this is a teachable moment. The person’s ready to hear this. And if you’ll do that your words will have impact. One day a word may be dull and pointless, but the next day pregnant with purpose.
If you want to verse that reinforces this, if you don’t want to turn, write it down, John 16: verse 12, the Lord Jesus is addressing his disciples. We’re in the upper room discourse. We’re hours away from the Lord’s betrayal, and hours away from his crucifixion. He’s sharing with them that it’s expedient that he goes away. The spirit of God, who’s of the same nature as Jesus Christ, is going to come and replace him, and he’s going to lead the disciples in the whole truth. And there were many other things Jesus wanted to say, but you know what we read in John 16; verse 12, he really says, all right guys, that’s enough.
Look at verse 12. “I have still many things to say to you, but you can’t bear them at this moment.” This isn’t the right time to dump and download all this stuff. You’re going to have to grow a little bit more. You’re going to have to learn a little bit more. And the spirit of God’s going to nudge you on in your walk with God, and then you’ll start to hear all the full implications of my death and resurrection and my program for the church.
Our Lord Jesus spoke timely words. There’s much more I’d like to say, but I’m not going to say it. You and I need to take a page from his book. When our words are thoughtful and timely they can revive a spirit. They can mend a heart. They can replace despair with hope. They can change a life forever. A well-timed word has the power to urge a runner to the finish line, to rekindle hope when despair has set in, to spark a bite of warmth in an otherwise cold life.
You probably heard of the guy who went to his doctor right after checkup to get the results. The doctor said, “I’ve got good and I’ve got bad news for you. The good news is that you’ve got 24 hours to live.” And the guy said, “That’s the good news? What possibly could be worse than that?” “Well, due to a clerical error,” said the doctor, “I meant to tell you yesterday.” Timely word. A timely word, a thoughtful word.
Here’s another category of speech, a tactful word. A tactful word. We’ve touched on it. Again, this is extending out here. We need to use words that promote peace and bring calm. Through our words we can turn swords into pleasures and turn our enemies into friends. We all know, don’t we, by experience and by our own actions, that many an argument has been stirred up or diffused depending on how a person chooses to respond. We have a saying back in Northern Ireland, “You know what? He’s a stirrer.” This kind of person comes into a room or in a Bible study, and before long they’re stirring the pot. They’re a stirrer. They use their words to get people all upset and wound up. They’ve got fighting words that tear into men like shrapnel. But the wise man, the patient pastor, the good Bible leader, well, they’ll use calming and tactful words.
You know these verses, they’re beautiful, aren’t they? Proverbs 15: verse 1, “A soft answer turns away rath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Tactful words. Oh that God would give us the grace to use tactful words, to use one word instead of two, to say it at the right time, and to say it in a gracious tone.
Here’s a striking verse. Look at Proverbs 25: verse 15. Again, another one of these vivid images. Proverbs 25: verse 15, “By long forbearance a ruler is persuaded, and a gentle tongue breaks a bone.” Now there’s a picture, a tongue breaking a bone. This soft mucusy tissue breaking a bone. And its image that’s saying that gentleness and graciousness breaks down hardness and resistance. Hardened sinners are broken down by kind words, not Christians getting in their face, telling them what’s what, telling them where they’re going if they don’t listen, because this has been repeated for the third time. No, gentleness and graciousness breaks down resistance. Maybe you’re in a relationship where one of the parties in that relationship has got cold and callous over the years, and you’re tempted to fight fire with fire and respond in like kind. This Bible says with your tongue you can break bones. With a soft answer you can turn away rath.
Listen to these words from Ray Pritchard speaking of this verse. He says this. “So what exactly is this gentle tongue that can break a bone? It is the ability to say the right thing at the right time in the right way, without saying anything you don’t want to say or need to say. A tactful person seeks to find a private place and a fitting moment.” It means you refuse to dump all your frustrations on another person. You say what needs to be said in the quickest, most direct and the most gracious possible manner. It’s great counsel.
Well, here’s our last thought. Thoughtful words, timely words, tactful words, truthful words. And I think if I was to categorize, I don’t really want to do that but if I was to, this is probably the highest use of your tongue right here, and it will incorporate the other thoughts. But it’s the use of your tongue to promote truth and spread knowledge which leads to the truth of God and the knowledge of God. Follow me here. Now, and I could go on a study of truth in the sense of integrity and honesty, and that’s an important use of your tongue, but I’m using truthful here in the sense of speaking theological truth that changes lives and alters destinies. Look at these words. Proverbs 10: verse 20 through 21, “The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, the heart of the wicked is worth little.” Look at verse 21, “The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of wisdom.” The lips of a righteous man, the talk of a Christian, should feed people, nourish them, build them up.
One other verse, and this would be Proverbs 15: verse 7, just two out of a number, “The lips of the wise disperse knowledge, or spread knowledge, but the heart of the fool does not do so.” Now the foolish person spreads lies, gossip, flattery, but the wise person uses his tongue to spread knowledge. Now, when we speak of knowledge here we’re speaking about biblical knowledge, I believe most of all, because it is the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. This is truth based knowledge. This is knowledge about God through the wisdom writings, that gives you a perspective on time and eternity, that helps you to live well, that helps you to live for God’s glory, that helps you not to waste your days and employ your energies to the right purposes and ends. This is wisdom, biblical wisdom. In fact, in Proverbs 8, wisdom personifies itself, speaks as if it was a lady. And speaking of itself, it says in Proverbs 8: verse 6, “Listen, for I will speak of excellent things, and from the opening of my lips will come right things, for my mouth will speak truth.”
So when the Book of Proverbs talks about knowledge and feeding other people with your words, it’s speaking about you and I feeding them with the wisdom we have received, which is truth and right. And so what is the application? It is this. The best use of our tongues is to engage them in sharing the truth of God’s word with others. In repeating the gospel as many times as the providence of God will allow you to do so. Are you that kind of person? Am I that kind of person, where people can come and feed of us, because we are nourished up in good words of doctrine? Are we are the kind of person that spreads knowledge of God and his lovely son, the Lord Jesus Christ?
Listen to these words, Psalm 68: verse 11. Here’s what we read, “And the Lord give the word, and great was the company that published it.” God has given us a word. It’s an eternal word. I’s a powerful word. It’s a lovely word. God loves us, and he demonstrated that love, in that while we were yet sinners his own son became obedient to death on a cross, a horrible death, where he was hurt and wounded by men. But beyond that, he was crushed between the millstones of God’s holy anger poured out against sin. God loved us. Jesus died for us, and the Spirit of God came to convince man of those truths, and bring them to a knowledge of those things. That’s the word God has given us, and he wants us to publish it. Will you do it this week? Will you commit maybe tonight to say, you know what? By God’s grace and with God’s help, I’m going to look for an opportunity to spread knowledge, knowledge of Jesus Christ.
In 1 Thessalonians 1: verse 5, here’s what we read of the Thessalonian Church, just to reinforce this point. Paul is writing to them. There’s wonderful stories of conversion in that city. Paul had a hand in it. These people come out of paganism. They turn from idols to serve the true and the living God, and Paul is writing to the Emory, recounting what God did among the Thessalonians. And in Chapter 1: verse 5 we read this, “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. And you being followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affection with the joy of the Holy Spirit, you became examples. For from you the word of God was sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your fear towards God has gone out so that I need say nothing.”
What a testimony. The word there sounded out is literally trumpeted forth, or rang out. He carries the idea of reverberated. God spoke to them, and their lives became a sounding board for God to speak to others. They were a relay station. They received a signal from heaven. By an act of God’s gracious regenerating work they came to see what they had not otherwise seen, that Jesus Christ was God’s son come in the flesh. That flesh was torn as a payment for their sin. That signal they received by illumination of the Holy Spirit, and then they transmitted that signal to others. They were a relay station. The word of God was sounded out from them. Isn’t that fantastic? Can the tongue be used for anything better than that? To sound out, trumpet it and ring out the word of God.
Christians are ambassadors. And you know what? If you think about it, in sharing the gospel it is then that we truly fulfill. Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life is in the power of the tongue.” And when you and I use our tongues to speak a word for Jesus Christ we can be the means through our witness of God bringing life to some, and others remaining in death by their own choice. Look at 2 Corinthians 2: verse 15, as we close. 2 Corinthians 2: verse 15, Paul says, “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved, and among those who are perishing. To one, we are the aroma of death, leading to death and to the other the aroma of life, leading to life, who is sufficient for these things.” What’s that verse saying? Do you know what that verse is saying, that successful evangelism is not seeing someone saved necessarily, because the results are out of our control. Amen.
Salvation is of God. It is the spirit of God alone that regenerates the heart of man. I cannot manipulate someone to trust Jesus Christ. I cannot badger them into the kingdom. God must open the heart. God must bring light to the darkened mind. But if God uses me, and what a wonderful thing if God uses you to save someone, that’s wonderful, but sometimes God uses you actually to confirm that person’s deadness. And we have this idea that successful evangelism is you leading someone to Jesus Christ. Not necessarily so. Successful evangelism is you correctly communicating the gospel message. The results, God determines sovereignly. And sometimes God uses you and me to bring someone to saving faith and sometimes he uses us as a witness against them on the day of judgment.
Sometimes we see life, sometimes we see death, but it all hinges on us, our words, sharing the gospel. There’s nothing more powerful than that. Life and death in our words, as we share the gospel of Jesus Christ to others. Are you using your tongue? If you’re using your tongue here on a Sunday morning to teach the children of this church, thank you for Jesus’ sake. If you’re an ABF teacher, and you’ve got a busy week but you’ve carved out a night or two of your weeks so you can prepare your lesson well to teach our classes, thank you for Jesus’ sake.
If you work in Awana on a Wednesday, if you go visiting on a Tuesday, if you work among our young people, if you work among our seniors, and I’m sure I’m going to miss a category, and on and on it would go, thank you for Jesus’ sake. Because the tongue of the righteous spread knowledge, and if you’re not using your tongue for any of those purposes we can use you on Sunday morning. We can use you on Tuesday night, and we can use you on Wednesday night, because there’s no higher use of your tongue than to speak truthful words about One who said, “I am the way, and I am the truth, and I am the life.”