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The tongue can be the best and the worst part of the body depending on the condition of the heart of the speaker. Christ calls us to use our tongue to impart wisdom and truth, share the gospel, praise God, demonstrate grace, and bring about healing. By devoting ourselves to constant prayer, we can transform our tongue into an instrument of God's mercy and peace.
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The Transformed Tongue and How to Maintain It
Tossing Out the Employee Handbook: God's Standard for Leaders and Employers
Parenting's Dirty Dozen: How to Exasperate Your Child
Marriage and the 'S' Word: How Knowing Jesus Changes Everything
How the Head Affects the Body: Demonstrating the Faith We Declare
Moving From Reasonable Faith to Necessary Response
Ever stood in line behind that guy? Ever been that guy? Can you imagine that guy moving from right here and somebody recognizing him? Somebody saying, "Hey. Now tell me again what church it was you invited me to on Sunday." You think he'd be anxious to tell them about it? Me either.
Because sometimes what you do and who you are determines everything about what you can say. Now we just saw an individual in a normal, everyday occurrence that we would say didn't quite come through in the manner in which we hope we can come through when stresses mount, flights are cancelled, and lines are long.
Yet what we're studying these last weeks together, what we're looking at is a book that says if you come into relationship with this person, Jesus Christ, it should affect every area of your life, including those everyday, tempting, excruciating circumstances like long lines, cancelled flights, and high stress business situations.
If it doesn't, our claim that we have a relationship with the God who is and who takes self-centered people and transforms their hearts into hearts that become seasoned with salt as they were or giving forth a fragrant aroma or who speak to the nature and character and hope of who Christ is, then it really doesn't matter if you have a big building with a steeple on top or not to invite folks to, because they're not going to come where you are. They're not going to listen to you talk about the hope you have in your King.
That's exactly where we are. We're studying a book called Colossians. Hope you have your Bible. Turn there with me to Colossians, chapter 4. We're going to take a look at kind of the crescendo of this letter. We're going to look just at verses 2 through 6 in chapter 4 today.
You're going to see that now Paul is going to have moved through and is saying, "Listen. It's great you have found the truth of who Jesus Christ is, but let's just not make this some propositional idea that God is good and you are bad. He loves you very much. He gave you his Son and sent him to you to die on a cross in order that he who knew no sin might become sin on your behalf that you might become the righteousness of God in him."
You have just gone through some mathematical equation that God has said you need to go through in order to process this distance of separation you have from him. No. What God is saying is that truth is not just some propositional statement. It is a person. The person of Jesus Christ. He doesn't want you to agree with truth. He wants you to embrace a relationship with the person.
Upon embracing the relationship with the person, the one who is the visible image of the invisible God, the one who all the fullness of God dwells in him in bodily form, when you come into a relationship with him, he invades your heart and your life, and he becomes your head. If he is your head, it should change everything about the way your body operates and lives.
Paul, at the pivot point of the book in chapter 3, said, "If then you believe all that I've said that Jesus is and what he has done, don't be intimated by what the world says you need to supplement your intellect and knowledge with. Stay firm with who Christ is. Look nowhere else, but keep your eyes fixed on him. If your eyes are fixed on him, then your hands ought to be radically changed. Your heart out to be made over in an extreme way."
It ought to change the way you relate to other people. You ought to put on a new behavior with a new attitude. Specifically, it ought to change everything about your relationships. Especially those of you who are married. It ought to change everything about the way you shepherd those God brings into your life through that marriage. You shouldn't exasperate those who are around you.
It ought to change everything about the way you work and steward your life as an employee. It ought to change everything about how you employ those who work for you. What Paul is going to say is, "Listen. If you have a life that gives people hope and is a blessing to those who interact with it, that you have a built-in tool for evangelism. People are going to demand an explanation from you."
This is what Paul's friend, Peter, said a little bit later, "Man, you become more like Christ." He says it this way, "…sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts…" Then he says, "…always [be prepared] to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you…" Why do you live the way that you live? That's what we're going to focus on big time next week. Why do we live the way that we live?
This week we have to determine if we are living the way we ought to live if we have that great hope in us? When we respond, we ought to do it with gentleness and respect or reverence for that other person. Not from arrogance. Not treating everybody the same but understanding that person's question. Loving them. Coming alongside of them.
Paul says you have a built-in tool for evangelism if your life has been radically changed. Now what he is going to do specifically is he is going to talk about the most difficult part of anybody's life to be transformed. We have kidded around before that the last part of an individual's life to be sanctified is their right foot, in reference to their driving. We've teased about that a little bit.
The reality is Scripture says there is one part of your body that is specifically typically the last part of the body to truly be sanctified. That's what these five verses are about today. It's a small part of the body, but it directs everything about you and exposes everything that is within you. It is what will cause you to be a terrible employer, an unfaithful employee, an exasperating father, a discouraging spouse, and a general busybody and not a blessing to the community that you live with.
It is the part of the body which allows me to communicate with you right now. It is the tongue. Take a look with me at Colossians 4:2-6. I'm going to read it through with you once. Then I'm going to talk about this. I'm going to tell you that your tongue should be used in a very specific way if you have a relationship with God. Those six ways are spelled out in these five verses. It can only happen when you understand what it means to be an individual who lives in relationship with the one whose name is truth. I can't think of a more relevant passage.
"Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak. Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person."
Here's what I want to say to you. I'll walk you through those verses in detail in just a minute. In a nutshell, what he is saying right here in Colossians 4:2-6 is if you're a person who has a relationship with God through the person of Jesus Christ who has made himself known to you by grace, then you ought to use your tongue to pray. You ought to use your tongue to praise this God who has been gracious to you.
You ought to use your tongue to proclaim the goodness of this God, to impress others with truth and with your transformed life, to preserve the society in which you live, and to provoke that society towards a response. Let's take a little bit of a look at these one at a time. Before I do that, let me just start by saying Christ had a very clear understanding himself of why using a person's tongue was such a big deal.
The tongue was a symptom of person's condition. In Matthew 12:34-35, this is what it says. "You brood of vipers…" He is talking to some men who looked externally like they had a relationship with God because they were very religious, very ritualistic and performance oriented in terms of ritual.
It says, "You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good?" In other words, why should men listen to you about what is right and true? "For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart." What he was saying in this little passage is what fills the heart of these religious leaders was arrogance and self-righteousness and pride, which is the very opposite of what God says allows an individual's heart to be good and true.
When Jesus came crashing on the scene, he said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit..." Those who are bankrupt in their condition, who don't think they're rich in and of themselves. These men thought that they, through their own efforts and own behaviors and religiosity were individuals who were good. Jesus says, "No. You're not."
"The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil." In other words, what is on your tongue is always going to illustrate what is in your heart. What was in the heart of our friend behind me in this little drama today was it was all about him. There was no, "Doing nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind, considering others as more important than himself."
All of us can fall into that trap at any given moment. What Paul is making a case for is if, then, you have come into a relationship with the Jesus who lives, the practice of your life and the ever-increasing pattern of your behavior ought not to be what we saw displayed right here. We all have moments when we are not devoted to prayer, and I'm going to explain that verse to you at the very end of today and walk you through it, where we are not individuals who are living in relationship with Christ but are quenching the Savior that is in us.
We go our own way. It happens most often with those we are most comfortable with, which is why he has been so specific about those you live with on a daily basis: those you work with, those you shepherd in your home, and those you create a home with. Make sure, he says, that your heart is most tender there.
These are verses I need this week. These are verses that are going to make my home a better place to live. Because it's the first place you get lazy. One of the metaphors, again and I shared this, that Paul uses in Colossians, chapter 3, is he tells you to put on certain characteristics of Christ. You make an active choice. The word that is right here in Colossians, chapter 4, where he says, "Devote yourselves…"
Be devoted. In other words, I want you to be earnest. You strive passionately for these things in your life. It won't happen by accident. You're going to have to really work hard to make it happen. Let me just show you in Romans 12:9-15. Look at this with me. There are seven different verbs here that are akin to this idea of what devotion is about and what it looks like.
He says, "Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good." By the way, let me just say to this. Our whole purpose as a body is to help every single person understand the joy and the rightness of living a life that is fully devoted to the God who loves you so much that he would humble himself to be found in the appearance of a man and to be made in the likeness of a man and to become obedient as a man to die on a cross for the men and women who have rebelled against him.
To rightly respond to that and to cling him and to embrace him and to devote your life and say, "If it's true that Christ is God, he died for me," there is no response that is unreasonable of sacrifice back towards him. Getting a glimpse of our need and his greatness and his goodness and then clinging to him and embracing him in every area of our life as a humble response to his love. Not to get him to love us but in responding to the love that has already been given. To call you to a life of full devotion.
We want to let you know something. We are pretty radical in our pursuit of each other in this way. We believe that full devotion is not something the staff should pursue. Or the few folks who live in Dallas, Texas, who happen to be a part of our body while they go to school downtown at something called seminary. Or those who are in positions of leadership or up front ministries.
No. We believe that full devotion is normal for every single believer and follower of Christ. We do everything we can to keep tabs with each other and say, "How are you doing? What can we do to help you take new ground, to help you cling to what is good?" Look at this. "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference…" he says.
You put it as a preeminent place in your life. "…not lagging behind in diligence…" You be diligent. "…fervent in spirit…persevering in tribulation…" There is the word devoted again. "…contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing…" You make it your habit. "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse."
Seven different strong verbs are given right there by the same guy who wrote Colossians telling you, "Listen. This is not something that will happen unless you fix your eyes on it." That's what this whole book is about at this point. You say you found hope in Jesus Christ? Man, cling to it. The world is going to always tell you Jesus isn't enough. If Jesus is God, if he is the visible revelation of what is invisible to all of us, then don't shake off of that.
If he is alive today living and available to you, don't look anywhere else. If it's true that this child who was born to us is the Prince of Peace, is Eternal Father, is Mighty God, then why would you look anywhere else and not make yourself available to him? Devote yourself to prayer. Jesus says, "Out of a good heart comes good things." I'm just going to walk you through a bunch of verses here very quickly that a good heart should not produce.
In other words, what I want to do is walk you through just a collection of verses from God's Word that talk about what a wicked heart's tongue does. Then I'm going to talk about what a righteous heart's tongue does. You see which one most often defines you. Here we go. Take a look at this.
Psalm 10:7: "His mouth is full of curses and deceit and oppression; under his tongue is mischief and wickedness." A heart that doesn't know God is a heart that is full of wickedness and deceit. Psalm 12:4. The arrogant or wicked say, "With our tongue we will prevail; our lips are our own; who is lord over us?" There is pride and arrogance in a wicked tongue.
Psalm 141:3: "Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips." That's a prayer by a saint. A wicked man's tongue is not restrained. There is no filter on it. Proverbs 18 says, "A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind." I love what the Jews say about this. That verse talks about the double trouble of a fool. A closed mind and an open mouth. Ever been married to somebody like that? Yep.
My wife was for a few minutes yesterday. She was suffering from the double trouble of a fool. I had a closed mind (I wanted her to see her part of something) and an open mouth. What defined my home in those few moments was not what Paul says should define the home.
I had to cling to Jesus again to say, "Lord, this is not about me right now; I need to devote myself to prayer and let you get in my life and change me and tenderize me. Because if not, I'm going to exasperate my wife. I'm going to bring turmoil into my home. It won't be a thing of glory which will draw men to you. It'll be a thing of disgust to everybody in it and all who really knew of it." By the grace of God, we just clawed our way back to what was good. We clung to it. We persevered through our flesh which wanted to just take its own way.
Psalm 109:3: "They have also surrounded me with words of hatred, and fought against me without cause." The wicked tongue is hateful. Proverbs 11:11: "By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is torn down." It is destructive.
Proverbs 12:22: "Lying lips are an abomination…" Wicked lips pour forth from wicked hearts, and they are full of lying. Proverbs 15:28: "The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things." It is vomitus. It's no restraint to the wickedness that comes out of it.
Proverbs 26:22: "The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost [being] ." I just summarize this as they are sweet, slandering, secret sounds that come out of the lips of the wicked. "The wicked's words are flattering," Proverbs 26:28 tells us. "The wicked's lips are a deadly weapon," Jeremiah 9:8 tell us.
Colossians 3:8 summarizes a lot of this. "But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech…" Get rid of it. It should have no part of you if your heart has, in fact, been changed. First Peter 2:18: "Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect…" A wicked tongue is disrespectful of those who employ it and lead it. There's no room for that among the saints. Titus 1:11: "A wicked mouth speaks lies, heresies, and deception." You don't want that tongue leading you in any form or fashion.
Now in contrast to all this, this is what a righteous tongue has done. I'm not going to walk you through all those verses, but I put together a paragraph for you. This is what a tongue that is informed by a personal relationship with God and devotion to allowing that Spirit of Christ to reign in you does.
A redeemed tongue is used to confess sin, confess Christ is Lord, to build others up, to share the gospel, to proclaim the mercies of God, to praise God, give testimony to the mighty works of God, to bring healing, to be gentle and informed, full of wisdom and grace. It creates awe and has power. It is without deceit. It is full of gratitude. It is always truthful. If it wounds, it wounds because of love.
How would you like somebody to characterize your speech that way? Paul says that is how the world ought to describe the mouths of followers of Jesus Christ. As he is building his book to a crescendo, as he is giving his last words to his friend who has a church in this key city in what is modern-day Turkey, he is saying, "Let me just tell you something. You can tell people all day long you know Jesus Christ, but if your tongue is destructive and unrestrained, you will have no audience with the world that God has left you in to bring hope to."
Look what he says as he goes through this right here. In chapter 4, verse 2, he tells them, "Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving…" Let me just unpack this for you. His idea there, it doesn't mean just don't sleep. In Matthew 26, Jesus was talking to his disciples, and he said, "Hey. I'm going to go over here and pray for a while. Keep alert and watch."
He came back and they were asleep. This is not telling you not to sleep. It is hard to pray when you're sleeping. The good news is we know from the Psalms that it says the Lord gives to his beloved even in their sleep. The Spirit of God keeps working for us and protecting us. The idea here though is not so much don't sleep, where you're to keep alert. The idea here is you ought to be aware of the need around you.
You can't be devoted to something you don't specifically care about. You can't care about something you don't know about. You need to be an informed individual. What is going on in the lives of those I say I care for who are far from God? Am I praying that God will work in the midst of the stresses I know about in their life?
Am I praying specifically of the burdens they are carrying? That Christ could bring hope to the hurts that are in their life from past abusive relationships. Am I aware of travesty of abusive leadership in other parts of my city, state, nation, or world that I could be devoted to asking Christ to show up and intercede there?
Am I a person who is self-consumed? Or am I concerned for others in a way, and am I alert to the needs of other people in a way I can ask that God would burden my heart and inform my lips with words that will be to them life? What Jesus is saying is it's your responsibility as you walk down the road to look at who is in the ditch next to you and to be aware of them.
As we say a lot around our little office where those of us work and we hear about a problem somebody is in the middle of, we kind of go, "Well, there's a little conflict over there. There's some suffering over there." I just say, "Hey, Samaritan, that is your ditch. Deal with it and not just hope somebody else sees it while we busily pass by on the other side." We stay alert and feel responsible.
Then we're consistently living with an attitude of thanksgiving. "God, thank you that you trusted me with this situation in the ditch over here, that I can prayerfully intercede and make myself available to you and to how you want me to respond."
Five different times in the book of Colossians, he comes back to this idea of being thankful. He tells us to be thankful for our salvation in chapter 1. He tells us to be thankful for our growth in chapter 2. He tells us to be thankful for our church in chapter 3. He tells us to be thankful for the privilege of serving in chapter 3, verse 17. "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father."
Whatever you do, you say, "God, thank you that you have trusted me. That you saved me from darkness, brought me into light. You've trusted me with this situation. Not only that, but you've grown me to now where I can meet the situation. Lord, thank you that you have given me a body that will help me be effective in this situation. Thank you for the privilege of serving you in this situation. I am devoted to you. I am aware of what is going on in my world. I will, with gratitude, take the responsibility that you have given to me."
Are you starting to be attracted to this person? I am. The world will be, and in the midst of being attracted to this person they can come into a relationship with the one who is the way, the truth, and the life. Do you see what's at stake here? There's a ton that's at stake here. A wicked tongue doesn't bring folks into it.
There's a story about a guy, his name is Bias. He was a well-known Greek man. Somebody sent him one time just to test him in his wisdom. They sent him an animal to sacrifice. They said, "When you kill the animal and sacrifice it for me, I want you to send to me back the best and the worst part of the animal." Bias sent the guy back the tongue and said it is the best and it is the worst. It all depends on the heart which informs it.
Now look what he says here as we continue in verse 3. "…praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word…" We saw it in the very first part of chapter 2 to devote yourself to prayer. That's how you use your tongue. To constantly be in a relationship with God. It doesn't mean you are always on your knees going through some prayer journal. That's appropriate to do at times, but the idea there is to constantly live in relationship with God with an attitude of prayer.
Then you have an attitude of thanksgiving, which is to say you're constantly thanking God for the privilege of knowing him, serving him, and being yoked with others who are a part of him. Then in verse 3, we see you pray that God will give you opportunities to share the hope of who Jesus Christ is. A redeemed tongue prays. A redeemed tongue praises. A redeemed tongue proclaims.
In John's letter to the church at Philadelphia, in Revelation 3:7, it says Jesus is the one who has the keys of David, which is to say the keys of the kingdom. If he opens the door, nobody shuts it. If he closes the door, nobody could open it. You pray that he opens doors and is effective for you.
Do you want to know what's amazing about Paul? Paul had a radical relationship with the truth, a radical relationship with Jesus Christ. When he was in jail, do you know that Paul did not pray for his release from jail? You know what Paul prayed for? That he would be faithful in that moment and have opportunities continually given to him that he might declare the wonders of the mercies of God.
He said, "If this is going to be my mission field right here, then so be it." Do you know that it was during this time that he was in prison in Rome that he had the ability to change individuals who were in Caesar's household? That he had the ability to work with Jewish leaders who were in Rome? That Paul had the ability there to write this book called Colossians, to write the book called Ephesians, to write the book called Philippians, to write a little letter called Philemon?
In that situation, Paul had to go, "What's God doing? I'm the greatest evangelist of the day. Why does he have me under house arrest in Rome?" In fact, in Acts 28 it says Paul brought individuals to him and as he had an opportunity in his house where he was under arrest waiting trial, he had an effective ministry and would share the hope of Christ to all who came.
God slowed him down enough to say, "I want you to write a few letters that 2,005 years from now Wagner and his friends who love me can be instructed by it." That's why Paul said, "Lord, I thank you even for this condition." Paul said don't pray that I get out of jail. You pray that while I am here in this hospital bed sick, while I am here in this neighborhood I wish I could move out of into a nicer house, while I am at this job that is not really a joy to me, I pray that Lord, while I am here you would open doors for me. Those might be your words.
Guess how he opens doors? Through contentment. Through faithfulness. Through integrity. Through responsibility, reliability, and grace in the midst of circumstances nobody wants. Doors will be opened, and folks will marvel at your God because of you. Now I'm not talking about having a tongue here that is quick-witted.
There's a funny story about a kid who was working in a grocery store for a long time. He was back there in the produce section. A woman walks up to him and says, "Young man, can I have half a head of lettuce?" He said, "What?" She said, "I want a half a head of lettuce."He goes, "It costs $1. You have to buy the whole head. We don't sell half heads of lettuce."
She said, "Young man, I've been shopping here for 15 years. My husband has recently passed. If I want a half a head of lettuce, I think you should sell me a half a head of lettuce." He goes, "I'll go check with the store manager." He walks up to the store manager and says, "Hey, listen. There is some unreasonable, cranky old nag of a woman who wants half a head of lettuce." The store manager's eyes are real big. He is kind of waving his hands. He kind of turns back around, and he sees the woman and says, "And this woman here would like the other half."
The store manager was impressed. The guy walked away. He goes, "That was one of the most impressive recoveries I have ever seen. Where in the world did you ever learn to do that?" He said, "I grew up in Grand Rapids. I learned that in my parents' home. You know Grand Rapids. It's known for nothing but hockey and ugly women." The manager goes, "Hey. My wife is from Grand Rapids." The guy goes, "What hockey team did she play for?"
That's not what I'm talking about having a skilled tongue here. Some of us are like that. We saw that displayed right here. The guy was impressive, wasn't he? He went high. He went low. He went the pity route. He went the aggressive route, the intimidation route. That guy had a good tongue, but I wasn't attracted to it.
He was not there saying, "Ok, Lord, in this moment, what in your sovereignty do you want me to do?" Who knows if this person back here in line is not somebody who needed to hear about the hope he should have had in his heart. Or somebody in that city that the Lord was going to have him in in that storm. It wasn't going to be somebody who needed to bump into a believer.
Can I tell you it's just a really… Obviously, I'm always thinking about what I'm teaching. This past weekend there was that tragedy with Brian Nichols in Atlanta. When it broke, my kids were just… They heard about it when we were watching a game or something on TV. They were just totally stunned by it. That somebody would do that.
I took the moment, and by the grace of God, I said, "You know what?" They go, "Daddy, what's going to happen to that guy?" I said, "Well, it's not going to be pretty. Guys who start to do this, usually their lives end in violence." You could just see my kids just going, "Unbelievable." I said, "You know what, though, let's pray. Let's just pray for Brian Nichols right now. Let's pray that the grace of God will show up in his life."
I told them these things never end except this way. I'll tell you, I was just being a good dad. I didn't believe I was sure God was going to do this, but I said with Ally, with Kirby, with Coop, and Landry, "Lord, I just pray that you will take Brian Nichols and you will stop his bloodshed. That you will have him be confronted with somebody who knows Jesus Christ. I pray that he will meet somebody who will bring him to his senses, and he will turn himself in without bringing more loss of life."
We know he killed one more person. I have to tell you, the next day when I heard that he had run into a young lady who had shared with him about her hope in Jesus Christ, had read to him from a book that was being used as a transforming work in her life, and she told him to be a man, to come to his senses, to repent, to lay his gun down and to go and own what he did in response to who Jesus Christ was, I was stunned.
My kids go, "Dad!" I go, "I know! Let's write that one down. That's a big one!" Ally loses her ring a little bit later. Guess what she wants to do? Let us pray. "I lost my ring." Kirby loses his watch. "Let us pray." We prayed. You know what? We should. That's the way you ought to live. Our first response should not be to grab a bullwhip, but it should be to hit our knees. It was great.
I have to tell you, I was trying to be a good dad, and say let's take all things to God in prayer. I marvel. I'm not sure that what happened in Atlanta happened because Todd, Kirby, Ally, Coop, and Landry prayed, but it's just like our God to make it happen for reasons like that, isn't it? I guarantee I'm not the only one who prayed that way.
There's more in those little four words there, "Devote yourselves to prayer…" than just being a person who does things like that. I want to explain who he is. I want to talk about the fact that Christ is the desirer of nations. That he is the hope of the world, the fulfillment of the law. I want to be clear about who Christ is.
He says in verse 4, "I want to make it clear by God the way I ought to speak." In other words, I don't want folks to have a response to Christ because I tell them how wonderful my life has come after I trusted Jesus Christ. I don't want to be persuasive. I don't want to be manipulative. I don't want to be intimidating. I want to speak in a way that just allows the truth to go out with grace and with hope and lets God do what he wants to do.
Paul says, "The words that I brought to you, I didn't bring in persuasive words of wisdom in order that you might trust in the abilities of men." Paul just said, "I pray, Corinthian church, that I speak to you in a way that you might know it's the Spirit of God communicating to your heart, and not just some gifted linguist who has brought you to this place."
Most folks believe Paul had some sort of speech impediment or speech problem. Paul wasn't here praying that he wouldn't stutter. Paul was praying he would speak clearly, not manipulatively, not selling a product that wasn't the real deal, not saying, "Hey, health, wealth, and prosperity can be yours," but talking about their need, God's goodness, God's provision, and the hope that can come alone through him who is the way, the truth, and the life.
He said you make it clear how I ought to speak. Would you pray that way? Verse 5: "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity." What he is saying right here is that words you use not ought to just be words that are in relationship with God through prayer, that praise him, that proclaim him, but they ought to be words that impress others because of the way you handle situations with grace.
You make the most of every opportunity. He goes through and he talks about how you'll do that, specifically. He says in verse 6, "Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person." The idea there is that our words should preserve our society. That's one of the things that salt does. Our words ought to provoke our world to a place where they find what they have been looking for. It will make them thirsty when we speak of hope and contentment.
How can you lose your ability to speak that way? There are a lot of folks who do. Jim Rome, who a lot of folks listen to, has a nationally syndicated radio program. I tuned into Rome a little bit this week as I was listening to him talk a little bit about the baseball hearings. Part of the shtick that happens on the Jim Rome show is people send in emails all the time. They write these little funny quips, and then they sign them from somebody to complete the joke.
One of the ones he read has an application here to what we're looking at today, where it says, "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity." So that you, in effect, have an ability to share with them the hope. This guy didn't do that right here. This one email said this, "Dear Jim, just because you plead the fifth doesn't mean that you're guilty. Signed, I did not have sex with that woman."
The idea is when you have a life that is anything but ordered by faithfulness and honor, it's hard for you to be somebody people can look to with respect when you're talking about why certain folks may not speak honestly in a court of law. Lost the credibility there. If that guy tells me that just because you take the fifth, you're not guilty, I'm not sure I want to believe him. Because we found out that he is. I'm not picking on him. He's just a well-known public figure. Just like you ought to pick on me publicly.
Conduct yourself with wisdom. This is what it says in 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, as we work our way through these passages. Paul says your life ought to really be defined by two ways. "Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences."
In other words, we're made known to God and known to men. "We are again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance…" In other words, watch my life. It ought to be this way. There are only two ways I can be seen.
If we are besides ourselves, it is for God. We live in such a way that the world goes, "Why would you live that way? Why would you serve that way? Why would you be that alert to the needs of others around you? Why would you be that loving? Why would you restrain your words and not speak rashly? Why would you not slander like others do? Why when reviled do you not revile in return? Why when you suffer do you not utter threats? It doesn't make any sense to us."
In other words, if we live like we're from another world, Paul says, "Perfect." Or if you live so wisely in this world that the world goes, "We want to commend that kind of living. I commend the way you employ people. I commend the way you lead with gentleness. I commend the way you take your position of authority and use it to serve others.
I commend the way you faithfully work for those who are in authority over you. I watch you. You're different than the rest of us with your expense account. I watch you. You're different with the rest of us with your eyes because you wear a ring. I watch you. You're different than the rest of us in the way we have little office chit-chat. We're attracted to that."
The world ought to say, "You know what? I'm not sure I can live that way, but if I can live any way I want, I would want to live that way. I want my wife to speak about me the way I heard your wife speak about you. I would want my kids to run to me and adore me the way your kids run to you and adore you. There's something commendable about the way you live."
Paul says that's exactly how it ought to be. Because if Jesus Christ is alive and he is your head, it should change everything. It should change everything. That's why Paul says you must devote yourself to him.
Let me just wrap this whole thing up in just this simple way. Your speech ought to be used in that way. Your tongue ought to be used in that way. But understand this. What Paul is doing is he is explaining to you in this little section how you can have that kind of life. It's those first four words, "Devote yourselves to prayer…"
It doesn't mean you have to be praying without ceasing. It does not mean you're always on your knees in your closet. I will tell you that if you pray, God will make it impossible for you to stay in that posture of isolation and quietness with him. The Spirit is going to say, "Now get up. Go and love. Don't leave me. Don't just salute me, snap your heels, and go now and come back and report to me what you did. Let's walk together in a continual attitude of prayer."
Let me just give you just ten of what are literally dozens of verses that unpack what it means to live the spiritual life. I'll start with you in John 14:21. All of these will be available on the web very quickly. "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him."
That word keeps does not mean everybody who obeys everything I ask them to do. The idea of keeps there is that you would have it continually residing in you. It's a similar word to what comes up in John 15:4-5. "Abide in me. Keep his word in your heart. Let it inform you. Let his word inform your head because he is your head." Devote yourself to his word.
It's what Ezra did in chapter 7, verse 10. "For Ezra had set his heart…" Devoted. Earnestly strove for. Persevered. Clung to the Word of God. He studied it. He practiced it. Then he taught it. "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine…" You need to live this way. "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing."
Devote yourself to me. It would be just as silly for you to have a Word of God and prayer to go and try and do what you want to do as it would be to take the most fruitful branch on an orange tree, snap it off, and say, "Now go over there and make oranges." Devote yourself to it. Take it with you. You are rooted and grounded in him. Don't ever be disconnected. Always remember you are connected to him. Live that way as a result. I love what Keith Green, a 70s artist said. Remember, he is the vine, and you are the branches. So don't snap it off.
I'll just give you a few more that just show you some of this. Consider yourself, figure that you're dead to sin but alive to God. Devote yourself to prayer. It's not about me. I died with Christ by faith. Watch this one.
Romans 12:1-2: "…present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice…and do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed [continually] ." It's a passive verb. Let it happen to you. So that you can then live in a way that the world will go, "Who is your King? Why is your life that way?" That only happens not with a will that says, "I want to do great things," but with a will that says, "I can do nothing apart from him." Do you see what it means here?
When you read "devote yourself to prayer," it doesn't mean only get on your knees more. It means when you're on your knees, on your feet, lying in your bed, or flying on a plane, you think of Christ. Don't let him go. "Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth."
"Don't walk in the way of the wicked or stand in the path of the sinner or sit in the seat of scoffers, but delight in the law of God, and on that law meditate day and night." "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your paths straight." "…pray without ceasing…."
All those talk about what the spiritual life is. When we, as a group of people, get it through our thick skulls that we will be a church of renown only when we say, "Hey. We're not good folks. We're not gifted linguists. We're not hard workers. We are available vessels who are absolutely bankrupt and corrupt apart from Jesus Christ. We need him. We depend upon him. We cling to him because he is good." We have a chance, and our friends who are here today wondering if Jesus is worth knowing and loving will believe it. Because they'll see him radically transform us.
Lord, I thank you for my friends and this incredibly practical section of Scripture that we have a chance to meditate on today. Help us, Lord. We do not devote ourselves to prayer. I don't mean just what we feel guilty about not being on our knees more. We don't fix our eyes on you enough in the heat of the moment.
I thank you for the grace of the friends who are in my life. For my wife, yesterday, as she sat there and watched me…whether I watched her or not isn't important, but I know she watched me in that moment not cling to what was good…until I came to my senses and said, "You know what, Lord? This isn't going in a good direction."
I thank you that you came rushing back in and are rushing in still. That because of that, peace can reign in my home and love and harmony in my marriage, forgiveness through another person who comes to me because she is forgiven. I thank you I've seen that laid out in this body. How we're gracious towards one another because we realize we have been given the gift of grace.
Father, we want to leave today more passionate about being dependent upon you. So then everything we do, we say, "Lord, you're worthy of my praise. You're worthy of everything I have. I don't want to be conformed to the world, but I want to give you my life as a living and holy sacrifice, devoted to you. It's my right response to what you've done."
Would you use our lips this week, Father, would you open doors that we would cross paths with those who we could tell about the hope that we're going to celebrate next week and we would do everything we could do in order to give our friends a chance to meet this Jesus who is so gracious to save us and then to sanctify us and to pull us more into his image.
We love you, Lord. Now we rise, and as we say, having a great week of worship, it's our way of saying we're devoted to prayer. It's our way of saying, Lord, that we leave now and make ourselves available to you as we fix our eyes on you. As we hear the words that we already sang played behind us, that you are worthy of my praise, I pray, Father, that we would go out of here as people who praise you. Would you do that in us now?
I pray for my friends who are here today who wonder if you would love them and forgive them that they would come, that they would check a box in their Watermark news and say, "I want to know more about how to have a life that can be changed, how I can have forgiveness and a relationship with God through Jesus Christ" and That they would have hope that it can happen because they see your steady, long miracle in us. For their good and your glory we pray, amen.
From a book that is 2,000 years old comes evidence that has been preserved about the greatest truth the world has ever known and how it can transform our lives. The book of Colossians walks through the radical change that happened to some in an ancient east Asian city, revealing the struggles they faced, the resistance they met, and the transformation they found as a result of the hope they had. Join Todd Wagner as he studies the Colossians scene to discern how their journey can reveal truths that can change us.