Christian Plodding

November 19, 2023 in Bible - NT - Luke, Church Calendar, Meditations

Luke 13:18–19 (NKJV)

18 Then [Jesus] said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”

As Americans, we tend to have a love affair with that which is new, spontaneous, or instantaneous. As American Christians, therefore, we tend to grow tired of what we call the “same old thing” and hanker for some new fad or new teaching to invigorate our Christian walk. Now, of course, it is always good to push ourselves to grow and develop; to long for God to continue His work of sanctification in our lives; but the longing for some new experience rather than the pursuit of steady faithfulness reflects our cultural bias not our biblical grounding.

After all, what Jesus articulates for us in His parables of the kingdom is that the way the Holy Spirit works both in our individual lives and in the life of His Church is better pictured by the growth of a tree than the lighting of a sparkler. Sparklers, of course, are fun and exciting – they burn bright and shed their fire on all around them. But sparklers soon burn out while trees, planted and taking root, slowly grow over time; growing almost imperceptibly, soaking up the nutrients in the soil and increasingly displaying the glory of their Creator and becoming a nesting place for the birds of the air.

This steady, slow, natural growth is the way Christ typically works in the lives of His disciples. Normal Christian growth involves long periods of steady plodding – plodding that brings prosperity but plodding nonetheless. Typically God’s work is characterized by slow growth, gradual transformation – through what theologians have called the ordinary means of grace: reading and hearing the Word of God and participation in and meditation upon the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Steady plodding. Few sprints; mainly marathons. A long obedience in the same direction.

You may not know, but the last six months in the Church Year – roughly June through November – are called “ordinary time.” During these months there are no special feasts or celebrations; just the regular time of the Spirit’s work in the Church, during which we count one Sunday after another. This season fittingly follows Pentecost – for after Christ poured out the Spirit, the Spirit began working in the Church, gradually transforming the people of God into the image of Christ. Hence the color of this period is green, a color of growth. Tree-like growth.

In a couple weeks we’ll be introducing some liturgical changes as we enter a new church year with Advent’s arrival. We will have a different Call to Worship, a different Confession, a different Creed – this year we’re even going to be introducing a change in the order of songs. Before we change, I wanted to draw to your attention the fact that for the last six months we have not changed these things. 

Why have we done this? There’s no biblical requirement that we use the same words week by week. We could have changed them weekly, monthly, or periodically. God has left such decisions to the wisdom of church officers. And for six months we’ve chosen to use the same ones. Perhaps you noticed; perhaps you’ve wondered if this is ever going to change. And perhaps you’ve thought the same thing about periods in your own life and spiritual development. And the message of Jesus is that He is at work growing His kingdom and even growing you – so trust Him and keep plodding. Look to Him in faith; He is at work.

Reminded that Jesus’ work in our lives is often gradual, like the growth of a tree, we are alerted that often our hankering for something spontaneous or new or different is not an impulse of our Christian faith but our Americanness. And this reminds us that we need to confess our fickleness to the Lord and ask Him to enable us to practice a long obedience in the same direction. So let us kneel as we confess our sins together.

The Perfect Law of Liberty

November 12, 2023 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations

Proverbs 13:9 (NKJV) 

9The light of the righteous rejoices, But the lamp of the wicked will be put out. 

Paul writes in Romans 8:29 that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Proverbs assist us in that process, directing us in the way of wisdom and teaching us what it is to imitate our Lord’s character. Today we are reminded that God’s law is a blessing not a burden.

When we are in sin and running away from God, His laws appear to us as limits on our freedom and self-expression. Why can’t I worship whomever I want, however I want? Why can’t I say whatever I want? Why must God restrict my work one day a week? Why must I honor my father and mother? A woman should have a right to choose what she does with her body. Sexual restrictions are passe. The oppressed have the right to steal from their oppressors. Greed is good. Who are you to tell me what to do?

But when God in His mercy grabs hold of us and reconciles us to Himself through faith in Jesus, He begins transforming our perspective on His law. We come to see His law as life and light – as the perfect law of liberty (James 1:25). God’s moral law is the operator’s manual for us individually and societally. We come to see that to cast off His law is to invite upon ourselves destruction. It is, like a fool, to put water in one’s gas tank, to flip pancakes with an icepick, or to dry one’s car with coarse sandpaper. None of those things – water, gas tanks, pancakes, icepicks, etc. – are bad in themselves – but they aren’t meant to go together and putting them together results in destruction not freedom.

So our Proverb reminds us, “The light of the righteous rejoices, But the lamp of the wicked will be put out.” The Reformation Study Bible notes explain, “The metaphor presents two kinds of houses: one brightly lit and happy, the other dark and deserted. These houses symbolize human lives: one person prospers and lives long while another is cut short” (948). So whose house is brightly lit and happy? The house of the righteous. Why? Because he knows the way that God designed him to live and endeavors to conform his life to that design. And whose house is dark and deserted? The house of the wicked. Why? Because he is in rebellion against God’s design, fighting against the way he was meant to live.

So what of you? Do you delight in God’s moral law? Do you see it as the pathway of life and light? As the way you were meant to live? Or has your heart been poisoned by unbelief? By the deceitfulness of the world? Do you see God’s law as repressive, thwarting your self-expression and cramping your style? Then beware, if you continue in that path, your lamp will go out and your home will be filled with darkness.

Reminded that we often view God’s moral law as a burden rather than a blessing, a drudgery rather than a delight, let us return to God, confess our sin, and pray that He would enable us to see His moral law for what it is: light and life. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sin.

The Blessings of Riches & of Poverty

November 5, 2023 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations

Proverbs 13:8 (NKJV) 

8The ransom of a man’s life is his riches, But the poor does not hear rebuke. 

Paul writes in Romans 8:29 that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Proverbs assist us in that process, directing us in the way of wisdom and teaching us what it is to imitate our Lord’s character. Today we are reminded not to set our heart on uncertain riches.

Recall that the Proverbs of Solomon are given to instruct us in wisdom and inform us about the nature of the world in which we live. While we often wish that we lived in a perfect world, we are daily reminded that such is not the case. And while idealism would guide us to live in a utopia, wisdom prepares us to face the fallen world in which we actually live. And in the real world, riches and poverty both have their advantages. 

On the one hand, the ransom of a man’s life is his riches. In other words, riches often protect their owners from facing the consequences of their actions. Do we not see daily proof of Solomon’s observation? Whether it is Republican complaints about the favorable treatment of Hunter Biden or Democratic complaints about the evils of the 1% and the need to “tax the rich”, the reality is that every society has its rich folks who are able to use their riches to protect themselves from harm. And isn’t this what you would do if you were rich? Wouldn’t you use your wealth to try to protect yourself and your loved ones? So if the wicked become rich, don’t fret. Remember that God is the Lord, not the rich:

7Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. 8Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm. (Ps 37:7-8)

But there is another sense in which riches are not a blessing – and it is this that the second half of our proverb addresses: the poor does not hear rebuke or threats. In other words, poverty protects the poor from the criticisms and threats that rich people face. It’s not so much that the poor doesn’t listen to rebuke but that he doesn’t even hear rebukes – no one bothers to threaten him because he doesn’t have much to take or give. You may think that riches are a blessing – but consider what happens to those who win the lottery or to those who are rich. If you’re poor, do you have to worry about heart wrenching pleas for financial help? Do you have to worry about poor relatives draining your substance? Do you have to worry about frivolous lawsuits? Do you have to worry about the paparazzi? In other words, while there are certainly blessings that accompany wealth, there are also blessings that accompany poverty. 

Solomon’s observation, therefore, reminds us to be content with what we have and to place our trust in the Lord, not in uncertain riches. As Paul wrote to Timothy:

17Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (1 Tim. 6:17-19)

So what of you? Where is your hope? Is your hope in uncertain riches or in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy and to share? Reminded of the uncertainty of this world and the mixed blessing of both wealth and poverty, let us confess that we are often consumed with a lust for wealth. And as we confess our sins, let us kneel as we are able.

Jesus’ Transformation of the Family

October 29, 2023 in Baptism, Bible - NT - Acts, Children, Meditations

Acts 16:31–34 (NKJV) 

31So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household. 

Later in the service we have the privilege of welcoming numerous folks into membership in our flock and of baptizing several of their children. These baptisms serve as reminders that Jesus works not just with individuals but with whole families. When He saves us, His salvation transforms our individual lives and our homes. Jesus’ salvation of these parents has radically transformed their homes and the lives of their children.

This is no surprise. Malachi promised that one of the chief fruits of the Messiah’s coming would be a renewal of family life, particularly a restoration of fatherhood. “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Mal 4:6). It is Jesus’ transformative work in families that is on display in the life of the Philippian jailer in our text today. After the jailer heard the Word of the Lord preached by Paul and Silas he believed in Jesus, acknowledged Him to be Lord of all, and so was baptized with “all his family.” Jesus began His transformative work in this home.

Because the Gospel is not just for individuals but for families, the Scriptures are filled with promises and commands for both parents and children. The Lord includes both parents and children in His kingdom and is often pleased to use the discipleship of parents to bring their children to a living faith in Jesus. “Train up a child in the way he should go,” Proverbs 22:6 observes, “And when he is old, he will not depart from it.” 

During the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the famous Stoic emperor of Rome, a notable Christian teacher named Justin was arrested along with several of his students. They were interrogated for their faith and told that they must renounce Christ if they were to preserve their lives. Justin and his companions refused – and so Justin the Philosopher is more commonly known as Justin Martyr. The account of their martyrdom testifies of the power of parental discipleship:

The Roman prefect Rusticus said, “To come to the point then, are you a Christian?” Justin said, “Yes, I am a Christian.” The prefect said to Chariton, “Are you also a Christian?” Chariton replied, “I am a Christian by God’s command.” The prefect then asked another, “What do you say, Charito?” Charito said, “I am a Christian by God’s gift.” “And what are you, Eulpistus?” Eulpistus, a slave of Caesar, answered, “I also am a Christian, freed by Christ, and share by the grace of Christ in the same hope.” The prefect said to Hierax, “Are you also a Christian?” Hierax said, “Yes, I am a Christian, for I worship and adore the same God.” The prefect Rusticus asked them all, “Did Justin make you Christians?” Hierax replied, “I was, and shall ever be, a Christian.” A man called Paeon stood up and said, “I also am a Christian.” The prefect said, “Who taught you?” Paeon replied, “I received from my parents this good confession.” Eulpistus agreed, “I listened indeed gladly to the teaching of Justin, but I too received Christianity from my parents.”

Those being baptized today stand in this good company – the company of those whose lives have been transformed by the grace of God through the witness of their parents. 

So what does this mean for us? Parents, it means that your children are not your own. They belong, body and soul, to the Lord Jesus, and have been entrusted by Him to your care. So you are called, in Paul’s words, “to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). As our baptismal oaths will emphasize later, we parents are to do all in our power to bring up our children to know and serve Jesus. Children, it means that you are not your own but that you belong, body and soul, to your faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. So you are called, with your parents, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength,” (Dt 6:5) and you are called, in the words of the 5th commandment, to “honor your father and mother that it may go well with you and you may live long on the earth” (Ex 20:12).

And so reminded this morning that God deals not just with individuals but also with families, let us confess that we have often neglected our responsibilities as parents and children alike – we parents have neglected to love and train our children as we ought and we children have neglected to love and honor the Lord and our parents as we ought. And as you are able, let us kneel together before the Lord as we confess our sins.

Honoring God with Our Bodies

October 22, 2023 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Meditations, Worship

Psalm 95:6 (NKJV) 

6Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. 

Psalm 134:1–2 (NKJV) 

1Behold, bless the Lord, All you servants of the Lord, Who by night stand in the house of the Lord! 2Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the Lord. 

One of the most frequent questions visitors have about our service of worship, one of the questions that you may also have, is this: What’s with all the different postures? We sit, we stand, we kneel, we bow heads, we lift hands – why all the variety?

The answer to these questions is threefold: first, God did not create us as mere spirits but as bodily creatures. Hence, God expects us to use our bodies for His honor. Paul writes, “…you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:20). Our bodies belong to God and so what we do with them matters. Our actions should reflect our reverence for Him and our knowledge that one day Christ will return in glory and raise these very bodies from the grave. Our bodies matter.

So this leads us to the second answer to our question: why all the variety? The answer is that in worship there are a variety of things we do. We praise and thank the Lord; we confess our sins; we hear the assurance of forgiveness; we listen to the reading of God’s Word; we confess the creeds; we present our tithes and offerings; we pray; we learn from the Scriptures; we feast with God at His Table. This wonderful variety demands a variety of responses – both verbally and bodily. There is no “one size fits all” bodily posture.

And this is why, third, the Scriptures invite us to worship God with a variety of postures – standing, kneeling, sitting, lifting hands, etc. So consider the texts I have read from the psalms – “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” And again, “Behold, bless the LORD, All you servants of the LORD, Who by night stand in the house of the LORD! Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the LORD.” These are just a couple examples of bodily invitations given in the psalter, different bodily actions we are to perform in worship.

As we consider this threefold rationale, however, we must beware lest we merely go through the motions. For the ultimate reason that our posture changes is that we have gathered to worship in God’s very presence. He is here with us and we dare not treat Him lightly. He calls us to worship; we respond by standing to praise Him. He thunders at our sin; we respond by kneeling to confess it. He assures us of pardon; we stand to listen and enter boldly into His presence through the blood of Christ. He instructs us from His Word; we stand to give our attention to its reading. This is the drama of the Divine Service – but it is a drama that is only meaningful when accompanied by hearts that love and fear Him.

So what of you? Why do you stand? Why do you kneel? Why do you sit? Do you do it just because that’s what you’re being told to do? Do you kneel so you won’t appear out of place? Do you sit so you can take a nap? Or do you do all these things because you recognize with awe and wonder that the God we worship this Day has invited you into His very presence to worship? 

So today as we have entered into God’s presence He has thundered at our sin – let us confess that we have often just gone through the motions of worship; and, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess together. 

Beware of Deceptive Appearances

October 8, 2023 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations

Proverbs 13:7 (NKJV) 

7There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; And one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches. 

Paul writes in Romans 8:29 that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Proverbs assist us in that process, directing us in the way of wisdom and teaching us what it is to imitate our Lord’s character. Today we are instructed to beware judging by appearances.

Masterpiece Theatre’s retelling of Charles Dickens’ novel, Our Mutual Friend, opens with a wedding, the wedding of Mr. & Mrs. Lammle. Bride and groom were extolled by onlookers – he is rich, she is a woman of property, both of excellent reputation. But both Mr. & Mrs. Lammle were in for a shock on their wedding day. For while Mr. Lammle had believed the rumors circulating about his bride and though Mrs. Lammle had believed the rumors circulating about her groom, they soon discovered that they had both been deceived and married nameless paupers. They were deceived by appearances.

And it is this folly that our proverb identifies today: beware judging solely by appearances. There are those who pretend to be rich but yet who have nothing. They drive around in fancy cars, they have a large house, they wear expensive clothes – but it is all a façade. Everything is on loan and the payments are behind and soon it’s all going to collapse. Meanwhile, there are others who live simply and yet possess great wealth. They drive modest cars, they watch their budget, they shop at T.J. Maxx, but they’ve invested well and will retire quite comfortably.

Solomon’s observation reminds us to beware lest we judge merely by the seeing of our eyes. Often our eyes deceive us. This is certainly the case with riches – as the Lammle’s tragic marriage illustrates; but it is also the case in other areas. There are those couples who appear to have it all together, but behind closed doors their marriage is a disaster. There are those teens who appear obedient and respectful, but who give their parents grief when no one is watching. There are those who talk much about God and God’s work in their lives, but who haven’t cracked open their Bibles for years.

On the other hand, there are those couples who shun glory but who enjoy meaningful companionship. There are those teens who are rambunctious but who would do anything to bring honor to their parents’ name. There are those who have little of this world’s wealth but who are rich in things pertaining to God.

Thus we must be careful lest we judge by appearances; lest we, as the adage goes, judge a book by its cover. Often there is more to a situation or a person than first meets the eye. So Isaiah describes the character of our Lord Jesus Christ:

3His delight is in the fear of the Lord, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears; 4But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, And decide with equity for the meek of the earth… (Is 11:3-4a)

So what of you? Do you rush to judgment about others? Are you hasty in your assessments of others? Do you jump on the latest social media craze? Join the latest lynch mob? Condemn others just because they are wearing a different jersey than your own or belong to a different political party? Or do you endeavor to look deeper than the surface to see what is below, what is truly the case? To weigh carefully before you judge?

Reminded that we often judge by appearances rather than judging with righteous judgment, let us confess our folly to the Lord. And as we confess, let us kneel as we are able.

A Righteous Man Hates Lying

October 1, 2023 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations

Proverbs 13:5–6 (NKJV) 

5A righteous man hates lying, But a wicked man is loathsome and comes to shame. 6Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless, But wickedness overthrows the sinner. 

Paul writes in Romans 8:29 that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Proverbs assist us in that process, directing us in the way of wisdom and teaching us what it is to imitate our Lord’s character. Today we are instructed to hate lying.

We live in a morally confused age in which we are told that we must “reject hate.” But “hate” is not intrinsically evil as we see in our text today. Hate is a transitive verb. Hence, we can only determine if it is virtuous or vicious depending on the direct object. To hate God, to hate virtue, to hate righteousness – all these are vices. But to hate arrogance, to hate cruelty, and to hate wickedness – all these are virtues. As Proverbs 6 reminds us:

16These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, 18A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, 19A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren. (Prov 6:16-19)

If these are things that our Lord hates, then they are things that we should likewise hate. We should embrace hate – and note that the tongue is mentioned twice in this list. The Lord hates “a lying tongue” and “a false witness who speaks lies.” Thus, He groups liars amid a notorious collection of sinners in Revelation 21:

6… “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. 7He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. 8But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (21:6-8)

Liars are grouped among the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, etc. Hence, according to our text, the man who hates lying is righteous – pleasing to God and reflecting the character of our Lord Jesus. Jesus died and rose again because we are a fallen people, “deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim 3:13). We lie to others and are lied to in turn. And this deceitfulness makes us loathsome and shameful, our text declares – a people who lie and deceive one another are a people never at peace. Hence, such wickedness overthrows the sinner – his life falls apart, he has no friends, because there is none upon whom he can rely nor who can rely upon him. Lies beget more lies and destruction comes in their wake. Thus, the one who loves lies hates his neighbor.

But the one who hates lying loves his neighbor. So Paul commands the Ephesians, “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another” (Eph 4:25). Why should we put away lying? Because we are members of one another and thus called to love one another. The one who loves his neighbor speaks truth to him. And this truthfulness begets more truthfulness. Such truthfulness proves to be a guard to him who practices it.

So what of you? Do you hate lying? Do you abhor all manner of deceit and treachery? Do you strive to speak truth always, to be careful with your words? Or do you regularly lie and deceive others? Do you boast of your accomplishments or do you assess yourself honestly? Do you say one thing and do another or do you shun hypocrisy of all sorts? Children, teens – do you hate lies and love the truth? When you are caught in sin, do you openly confess it or do you try to lie and deceive to escape the consequences of your actions? 

Though we ought to be a people who hate lying, we often are tempted to lie and deceive. And God is speaking to us today and summoning us to repent – to love honesty and integrity. And the good news is that He is gracious and gives freely to those who thirst, who acknowledge their sin and thirst for righteousness. So today let us not hide our sin but let us confess it freely to the Lord. And as we confess, let us kneel together as we are able.

Diligence & Laziness

September 24, 2023 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Sanctification

Proverbs 13:4 (NKJV) 

4The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich. 

Paul writes in Romans 8:29 that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Proverbs assist us in that process, directing us in the way of wisdom and teaching us what it is to imitate our Lord’s character. Today we are instructed to be diligent not lazy.

Webster defines “diligent” as “steady in application to business; constant in effort or exertion to accomplish what is undertaken; assiduous; attentive; industrious; not idle or negligent…” The man of diligence is not afraid of hard work and exertion. He remembers that God created man to work. We were designed to fill the earth and subdue it and to exercise dominion over it (Gen 1:28). God did not put mankind in the garden so that he would sit back and eat grapes all week; God put mankind in the garden to work. Adam was to take the order of the garden and extend it to the rest of creation. And though the Fall introduced toil into the world, often causing our work to be frustrating or foiled, work itself is good and noble and right, a holy calling. Consequently, the righteous man is diligent. And God’s promise to the diligent man is that “his soul shall be made rich” – he often enjoys material prosperity but, even in the lack of material prosperity, the character that the diligent develops makes him a rich man. This is not a health and wealth Gospel; this is God’s promise to those who work hard – it is diligence not daydreaming that leads to prosperity and it is diligence not daydreaming that enables us to reflect the character of our Lord Jesus Christ. The soul of the diligent shall be made rich.

The lazy man, on the other hand, desires, and has nothing. So who is the lazy man? Let us reverse engineer Webster’s definition of diligence. Lazy means “unsteady in application to business; inconstant in effort or exertion to accomplish what is undertaken; inattentive; idle or negligent…” The lazy man is full of excuses. Solomon writes, “The way of the lazy man is like a hedge of thorns, But the way of the upright is a highway” (Pr 15:19). In other words, whereas the diligent man clears away excuses and accomplishes the tasks given to him, the lazy man is full of excuses. There is always a reason the work can’t get done, the project can’t get finished, the job can’t be accomplished.

So what of you? Are you diligent or lazy? When you are given a task, does your parent or your boss or your spouse have to remind you to complete it? Children – is your room a pig stie or do you pick it up? Do you do your homework willingly or do you need constant reminders? Are your chores routinely accomplished or just as routinely neglected? Teens – are you wasting an inordinate amount of time on video games or on your phone or on entertainment rather than gaining skills that you can use to start a family and contribute to the well-being of your community? Adults – are you redeeming the time because the days are evil? Are you growing in faithfulness? Diligent in your vocation? Devoted to reading the Word of God and deepening your knowledge of God? Or is there always an excuse?

Reminded that we are to be diligent men and women and children who are attentive and industrious, let us acknowledge that we are often lazy, that we often make excuses when we should take responsibility. And as we confess our sin to the Lord and seek His forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, let us kneel as we are able.

Taming the Tongue

September 17, 2023 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Tongue

Proverbs 13:2–3 (NKJV) 

2A man shall eat well by the fruit of his mouth, But the soul of the unfaithful feeds on violence. 3He who guards his mouth preserves his life, But he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction. 

Paul writes in Romans 8:29 that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Proverbs assist us in that process, directing us in the way of wisdom and teaching us what it is to imitate our Lord’s character. Today we are instructed to guard our tongues.

There is an old Arab proverb, “Take heed that your tongue does not cut your throat.” It is that sentiment that is expressed in our proverbs today. Verse 2 contrasts a fruitful versus a mischievous tongue while verse 3 contrasts a cautious versus an ungoverned tongue. So let us consider the difference between a fruitful, cautious tongue and a mischievous, ungoverned tongue. On the one hand, a fruitful and cautious tongue is one that speaks good, that strives for peace, that exalts God, and that treasures truth. This man weighs his words carefully and speaks only that which is good for necessary edification (Eph 4:29). He knows that “in a multitude of words sin is not lacking” and so he “restrains his lips” (Pr 10:19). The one who speaks thus, who speaks his fruitful thoughts and restrains his foolish and sinful thoughts, will both preserve his life and eat well. He will enjoy a clear conscience in God’s sight as well as, in general, good relationships with family, friends, and neighbors. 

On the other hand, a mischievous and ungoverned tongue is one that spreads gossip, that deceives others, that exalts self, and that treasures personal gain. The one who speaks thus “feeds on violence.” He finds himself at war with his conscience as well as with family, friends, and neighbors. He opens wide his lips – he defines authenticity as the need to speak whatever he thinks, whatever she feels, whatever his passing fancy dictates. So he reveals the secrets of others, betrays friendships, and flatters others for personal gain. Such a person shall have destruction. She will discover that no one trusts her or wants to be her friend.

Solomon writes earlier in Proverbs, “The mouth of the righteous is a well of life, but violence covers the mouth of the wicked” (10:11). So what of you? Are you characterized by a fruitful, cautious tongue or by a mischievous, ungoverned tongue? Have you set a guard on your mouth? Do you weigh your words carefully? When you speak, are your words like the violent thrusts of a sword or the gentle swabbing of a wound? How do you speak to your spouse and your kids? Do you scream and rage and wonder why your family cringes in your presence? Do you multiply words to no purpose? Or do you carefully consider the words you speak and their impact on others?

Teens, you will be particularly tempted by the mischievous, ungoverned tongue. When speaking with your parents, are you careful to show them honor and respect? When you are angry or upset or hurt, do you restrain your lips until you can speak with care? Or do you just vomit out your disrespect and wonder why you keep getting disciplined? When speaking with your friends, do you use foul language to prove how cool you are? Do you make crude, sexual jokes? Do you speak ill of others to try to make yourself look better? Do you spread rumors and gossip? Do you speak one thing to someone’s face and then another behind their back? Do you open wide your lips or do you guard your mouth?

James the Just, the brother of our Lord Jesus, reminds us in his epistle, that

the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell… no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God. out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so (Jam. 3:6-10)

But they often are so, aren’t they? We are often tempted by the mischievous, ungoverned tongue. So reminded that we often sin with our tongues, but that God calls us to have a fruitful, cautious tongue, let us confess our sin to the Lord and our need for Him, by the righteousness of Christ and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, to tame our tongues and teach us to use them well. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able.